Belgium wobble after dismissing France for 135
Gibraltar v Austria
A hard-hitting innings from 18-year-old Kayron Stagno, who came in at No. 9 and hammered 52 from just 27 deliveries, enabled Gibraltar to recover from a shaky start against Austria on the La Manga No. 1 ground on Wednesday, and set his side up for a fairly comfortable 49-run victory.
The Austrians were on top early on after winning the toss and electing to field, and by the 30th over they had reduced their opponents to 85 for six, with two wickets falling to Lakmal Kasthuriarachchige in an economical spell.
But Karan Aswani and Kabir Mirpuri began to turn things around with a 60-run stand for the seventh wicket, which ended when the former was run out for a patient 37.
That brought Stagno to the crease and he immediately set about the bowling, undeterred by seeing Mirpuri given out for obstructing the field while attempting a quick single. Stagno thumped four fours and three sixes in his knock, and he saw his side past the 200 mark before he was bowled by Satyam Subhash shortly before the close.
Gibraltar's opening bowler Ross Harkins proved too quick and accurate for the Austrian top order, removing both openers by the time 33 runs were on the board and taking two for 14 in an exemplary seven-over spell.
Skipper Amar Naeem worked hard to keep his side in the game, and as long as he was at the wicket Austria had a chance. But his opposite number, Iain Latin, maintained the pressure, collecting two wickets in the process, and the required run rate steadily climbed.
84 were still needed with 15 overs left, and when Mirpuri had Naeem caught behind by Kieron Ferrary the match swung definitely Gibraltar's way.
Mirpuri took two more wickets to finish with three for 30, and when Mark Bacarese removed first Daniel Stevenson and then Nandeep Soggi to finish the innings, Austria were still 50 runs short of their target.
France v Belgium
Belgium's seamer Charles Wright grabbed five for 24 as France collapsed to 135 all out at La Manga 2 on Wednesday, but the Belgians made heavy weather of their reply, slumping from 88 for one to 113 for seven, and eventually being carried over the winning line by some hard hitting from Abdul Rehman.
France were never comfortable against a lively Belgian seam attack, and looked vulnerable from the moment Waqas Shafiq trapped Ramesh Sithambaranathan in front in the third over of the day.
Then Wright removed captain Arun Ayyavooraju and Usman Khan with consecutive deliveries with the total on 29, and France were in serious trouble. Robin Murphy followed soon afterwards, and the French were unable to build a really substantial partnership to produce a much-needed recovery.
Williamdeep Singh showed solid resistance with a 61-ball 24, while Shahid Malik adopted a more aggressive approach, hitting 32 from just 37 deliveries, with three fours and two sixes, before Wright returned to have him caught behind by Ali Raza.
135 never looked like being remotely enough, and when Raza and Amir Iqbal got them off to a flying start it seemed as if Belgium might coast to the easiest of victories.
Spinners Singh and Ayyavooraju slammed the brakes on, however, and the dismissal of Nirvam Shah, who had joined Iqbal after the departure of Raza for 27, was the cue for a real wobble by the Belgian batsmen.
A combination of accurate slow bowling and some reckless strokeplay saw four wickets fall for the addition of just seven runs, and when Iqbal, having reached 51, with six fours and two sixes, was caught by Hugo Pinsent off the bowling of Zika Ali and the total was 106 for six, an extraordinary turnaround was suddenly on the cards.
Waqas Shafiq became Singh's third victim, and now 23 were needed with only three wickets in hand. But Abdul Rehman was unfazed by the situation, and struck three sixes in a 15-ball knock of 23 not out, the last of them to finish the match.
Singh finished with three for 30 and Ayyavooraju with two for 16, but even their efforts were insufficient in view of their side's indifferent batting performance.
Gibraltar (2) beat Austria (0) by 49 runs. La Manga 1, 20 June. Gibraltar 210-9 (50.0 overs, K Aswani 37, KJ Stagno 52) Austria 161 (42.4 overs, Amar Naeem 45, K Mirpuri 3-30)
France (0) lost to Belgium (2) by 3 wickets. La Manga 2, 20 June. France 135 (44.5 overs, CES Wright 5-24) Belgium 139-7 (36.0 overs, Amir Iqbal 51, W Singh 3-30)
ICC European World Cricket League 8 Qualifier
Austria v Belgium (Ground 1)
France v Gibraltar (Ground 2)