Slovenia proved too strong for Bulgaria in their final game of the Division 3 tournament at the Tallinn Hipodroom, posting the highest total of the competition with 197 for three and then holding out against a spirited reply by the Bulgarian top order to win by 36 runs.
Setting a pattern of domination by the batsmen which continued throughout the day, the Slovenian openers Lalantha Karunatilake and Mark Oman put on 60 from 53 deliveries before the former skied a return catch which was well taken by Ivaylo Katzarski. He had made 36 from 38 deliveries with seven fours.
His departure set the scene for an extraordinary onslaught from Chris Bishop who smashed a brutal 20-ball 58. His innings included five fours and six sixes, four of the latter of consecutive deliveries.
With Oman content to give him the strike with a series of singles, Bishop helped his captain to add 91 for the second wicket from just 51 deliveries.
Bishop, finally bowled by Prakash Mishra, and the run-out soon afterwards of Primož Pustoslemšek, brought the Bulgarians much relief, as Oman was joined by Matthew Charlesworth, who contributed 31 from 17 balls, including three fours in the final over, to push the total close to 200. Oman batted throughout for an unbeaten 33, including two boundaries.
It was a daunting target, but while Bulgaria were never seriously likely to achieve it, their batsmen gave a determined reply.
Matthew Stewart led the way with an undefeated 61, made from 51 balls with five fours and a six, and he was given solid support by Mishra (28) and by Stuart Clarkson, the latter helping him to add 89 in an unbroken third wicket stand.
It was a third defeat in a row for Bulgaria, but in only losing two wickets they showed that they were capable of better than their results so far had suggested.
Bulgaria demonstrated that their batsmen’s strong showing against Slovenia in the morning match was no fluke then they successfully chased down an Estonian total of 161 for five and caused the shock of the tournament by claiming an eight-wicket victory over the Division 3 champions in the final game.
Their splendid effort was built on a century opening stand between Matthew Stewart and Danail Trenev, who put on 112 in 13-and-a-half overs to set their side on course for their first win of the week.
Stewart, who hobbled through his innings as he had through much of the earlier one, posted his second half-century of the day, hitting nine fours and two sixes in a 45-ball 66 before he skied a attempt at another boundary and was caught by Murali Obili, who ran the length of the pitch to take the catch.
Obili struck again by bowling Prakash Mishra, but not before he and Trenev had added another 24 and put Bulgaria within sight of victory. Then Lyubomir Zanev joined Trenev, and with his side now needing little more than a run a ball immediately showed his intentions by stroking the first ball he received to the boundary.
Trenev reached a well-deserved half-century with his first six in the following over, and then took a single to level the scores with an over remaining. He hit the first delivery to the boundary to complete the win, finishing on 59 from 54 balls with five fours and that six.
It had been a dramatic reversal, which had begun when Bulgaria, unrecognisable from the side which had been put to the sword by the Slovenian batsmen a few hours earlier, shocked their hosts by reducing them to 30 for four in 8.3 overs.
Estonian captain Tim Heath had shuffled his batting order, but the experiment was in danger of coming unstuck when Ivaylo Katzarski and Prakash Mishra claimed two wickets apiece, and it was left to the skipper himself, coming in at six, to turn the innings around in partnership with opener Karl Peter van Buuren.
He did so with a vengeance, belting the highest individual score of the tournament – 88 not out from 43 deliveries with seven fours and seven sixes – while Van Buuren made a 41-ball 45. The pair added 91 for the fifth wicket, but that imposing figure was to be eclipsed by the stand between Stewart and Trenev in the Bulgarian reply.
The final day saw 689 runs scored for the loss of just twelve wickets as the batsmen finally came into their own, providing a rousing climax to three days of spirited cricket.
At Hipodroom: Slovenia 197-3, 20 overs (Christopher Bishop 58, Lalantha Karunatilake 36, Mark Oman 33*)
Bulgaria 166-2, 20 overs (Matthew Stewart 61*, Stuart Clarkson 31*)
Slovenia won by 31 runs
At Hipodroom: Estonia 161-5, 20 overs (Tim Heath 88* Karl van Buuren 45)
Bulgaria 165-2, 19.1 overs (Matthew Stewart 66, Danial Trenev 59*)
Bulgaria won by 8 wickets
ICC European Division 3 2012 table (as of 16 June)