Ayyavooraju marathon sets up French victory
Austria v Belgium
Belgium made it two out of two by beating Austria at La Manga 1 on Thursday, but they owed their victory in great measure to a sensational innings from Abdul Rehman who, coming in at the fall of the sixth wicket, blasted an undefeated 102 from just 48 deliveries.
Rehman, who was celebrating his 40th birthday, smashed nine sixes and six fours in his onslaught, which enabled Belgium to plunder 120 runs from their last ten overs and 91 from the last five, reaching an imposing total of 265 for seven.
It was tough on the Austrian bowlers and fielders, visibly wilting in the La Manga heat, since they had again done well to put their opponents under pressure in the early stages. At 98 for four after 30 overs the Belgians seemed to be heading towards a total of around 200, but the match was transformed by Rehman's magnificent innings.
Until then, the Belgian batsmen had been contained reasonably effectively by the spin of Daniel Stevenson and Lakmal Kasthuriarachchige and by Imran Asif, the latter pair claiming two wickets apiece, but they had no answer to Rehman's controlled aggression.
Simon Newport was the next highest scorer for Belgium with 28, while Ali Raza contributed an attacking 24 at the top of the innings.
Austria had a nightmare start, losing three wickets by the time four runs were on the board. Amandeep Amandeep had the misfortune to be run out without facing a ball, and it was - inevitably - Rehman who had Satyam Subhash caught behind by Raza.
The Austrians fought back well through a fourth-wicket partnership of 59 between Imran Asif (43) and Babar Nadeem (20), but Shaival Mehta removed the latter and soon afterwards Rehman returned to dismiss Asif.
Mehta picked up two more to claim three for 19 in a seven-over spell, and at 80 for seven Austria were clearly doomed to a heavy defeat.
The lower order refused to give in, however, and with Ben Loader (26), Nandeep Soggi (23) and Satish Kaul (22) all showing good application - and Kaul taking a leaf out of Rehman's book with two big sixes - they were able to get the total up to 158.
That still meant, though, that Belgium won by 107 runs, and they will take a big net run rate advantage into their final match against Gibraltar on Saturday.
France v Gibraltar
France bounced back from their opening day defeat with a much-improved performance against Gibraltar at La Manga 2 on Thursday, captain Arun Ayyavooraju leading the way with a fine innings of 95 as his side posted a much more competitive total of 215.
The tall righthander set the tone by driving the first ball of the match back past Ross Harkins and down to the sightscreen, and this the first of seven fours he hit in his 145-ball knock, which only ended when he was last own in the final over of the innings.
Ayyavooraju was given excellent support by Robin Murphy (36) in a second-wicket stand of 79, and by the time Waseem Bhatti was third out, with the total on 139, the French had already passed their first-day total of 135.
Intent on holding the innings together, Ayyavooraju took few risks, but with the assistance of the top order he was able to create a platform for a decent total.
But Kabir Mirpuri bowled well for Gibraltar, and when he removed Bhatti, Shahid Malik, Abdul Rehman Quereshi and William Singh in a valuable ten-over spell, at a cost of 44 runs, he brought his side back into the game, France teetering slightly at 179 for six.
Ayyavooraju was still there, however, and although he has in danger of running out of both overs and partners, he proceeded steadily towards what would have been a well-deserved century. The ninth wicket fell at 206 with the skipper still nine runs short, but last man Zika Ali stood firm, and the final over began with Ayyavooraju still needing seven.
He could only manage two more before he went for a big lofted drive off Mark Bacarese, and was caught at wide mid-on by his opposite number Iain Latin. Bacarese finished with three for 36.
There was time for Gibraltar to face eight overs before the scheduled lunch interval, during which they reached 22 without loss, but immediately after the break Quereshi made the breakthrough, removing Ross Harkins.
David Coram fell to Tom Liddiard soon afterwards, but then Kieron Ferrary and Mirpuri added 45 in what proved to be the best partnership of the Gibraltar innings.
Shahid Malik eventually removed both of them, and when Usman Khan had Latin caught behind by Bhatti Gibraltar were in serious trouble at 85 for five.
Further resistance was shown by Chris Phillips (23), but Gibraltar were falling behind the required rate, and their cause was not helped by a flurry of run-outs which saw them decline from 135 for six to 143 all out.
Zika Ali was the most successful of the French bowlers with two for 13, while Shahid Malik took two for 27 in a fine ten-over spell.
Austria v Belgium
at La Manga 1.
Belgium won by 107 runs
Belgium won the toss.
Belgium 265-7 (50 overs) Abdul Rehman 102* (in 48 balls, 6x4, 9x6)
Austria 158 (40.1 overs) Imran Asif 43; S Mehta 3-19
France v Gibraltar
at La Manga 2.
France won by 72 runs
France won the toss.
France 215 (49.4 overs) AK Ayyavooraju 95, RJA Murphy 36; K Mirpuri 4-46, MO Bacarese 3-36
Gibraltar 143 (41.3 overs)
ICC European World Cricket League 8 Qualifier
22 June: reserve day
Austria v France (Ground 1)
Gibraltar v Belgium (Ground 2)
For more information including full scorecards from all matches in this tournament please go to:
ICC European World Cricket League 8 Qualifier website
ICC Europe Facebook
ICC Europe Twitter