LONDON: Ireland’s youth men’s team beat out a strong field in the European finals this week to qualify for the 2022 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup. Hosted at the Desert Springs facility in Almeria, Spain, the week-long tournament ran from the 19th to the 25th, with the Irish recovering from an early upset against the Netherlands to book their place in the West Indies in 2022.
The first day belonged to the Dutch, a low-scorer where Shirase Rasool’s 56 (82) at the top of the order carried the day. On a sluggish track, his patience was key, and when he was the third batter dismissed with the score on 102, the Dutch stumbled. Dietmar Hennop hit 28 (33) from No.9, but they couldn’t lift the run rate and crawled to 179/8 in their 50 overs. Nathan McGuire and Liam Doherty were the picks of the Irish bowlers with 3/27 each.
Ireland’s response with the bat was also turgid; skipper Tim Tector’s 37 (83) was a brave attempt to hold the innings together as wickets tumbled around him, but the Dutch left-arm orthodox duo of Shariz Ahmad and Udit Nashier claimed 3/19 and 3/24 respectively to bundle out the tournament favourites for just 146 in the 44th over.
The second and third days saw Scotland up and running with comprehensive victories over Jersey and the Netherlands. Oliver Davidson led a team bowling effort against Jersey (five bowlers collected a wicket) with 3/21 to skittle the Channel Islanders for just 107.
Scotland made no mistakes in the chase, with opener Gabriel Gallman-Findlay hitting a fluent 59* (73) to steer the Saltires to victory with eight wickets in hand in just 21.4 overs. Against the Dutch, Davidson again flourished with 3/28, while fellow left-arm orthodox Charlie Peet sent down four maidens in a stifling spell of 2/7 in 10 overs, to dismiss them for just 110. In response, the Scots reached the target four wickets down in the 28th over.
Days four and five saw Ireland recover from the early setback, as they thumped Jersey and skittled the Scots. First, Jersey’s bowlers had no answers to Jack Dickson, who hit the tournament’s only century, as his 103* (126) guided Ireland to 246/5. Patrick Gouge and Asa Tribe both hit half-centuries in a 111-run stand, but once they were dismissed, Jersey’s chase fizzled out as they lost 89/7 on their way to 206/9 in 50. Off spinner Nathan McGuire again impressed with the ball, claiming 3/34. Against Scotland, the batting again floundered, with Oliver Davidson’s 5/23 dismissing Ireland for just 139; in response, however, the Irish bowlers lifted. Another left-arm orthodox, Matthew Humphreys grabbed 4/11, and McGuire took 3/7 as the Scots collapsed to just 44. Tom Mackintosh (24 off 27) was the only batter to pass double figures.
Day six saw Jersey claim their only win, as the Netherlands were dismissed chasing the NRR boost needed to leapfrog Scotland into the final. Sent in, the Channel Islanders put together 209/8 in their overs, with keeper Jamie Watling’s late blast of 40* (28) the top score; Aryan Dutt scalped 3/27 for the Dutch. Needing to pass the target around the 31st over, the Netherlands went hard, but kept losing wickets and they were ultimately all out for 185 in the 35th over. Shariz Ahmad (57 off 52) and Pierre Jacod (39 off 37) gave them some hope with a 73-run stand in 8 overs, but when they were dismissed the Dutch didn’t have enough firepower left.
The final between Ireland and Scotland was almost a repeat of their group match, with Ireland dismissed for 144 (Davidson again in the wickets with 3/22), before the Scottish batters collapsed for 66 – Humpreys once more unplayable as he took 5/25 including four of the top five.
Belgium Women play their first-ever T20I series Elsewhere in Europe, and Belgium’s women’s team travelled to Austria for their first-ever official T20Is. Played at the Seebarn Cricket Ground in Harmannsdorf, just outside Vienna, the quickfire three-match series saw the hosts win 3-0 over the weekend.
In the morning match on Saturday, Austria’s star batter Andrea-Mae Zepeda hit their first-ever century in women’s T20Is, as she smashed 101 (62) to carry the hosts to 197/2 in their 20 overs. Belgium’s chase went nowhere, crawling to 79/3 in their allotment; Zara Sands was topscorer with an obdurate 14 (51).
The afternoon match went much the same way, with Zepeda’s form continuing as she struck 62 (45) and the Austrians charged past 200 for the first time in women’s T20Is, notching 212/4. Belgium’s response showed some improvement, as skipper Nicola Thrupp hit 52* (59) to become the first from her nation to reach a half-century. It wasn’t enough though as Belgium’s 100/3 in 20 overs saw them lose by 112.
Sunday’s game followed the same script again, with Zepeda’s 82* (59) taking Austria to 188/2. Belgium again improved in their response, however, with Nicola Thrupp again top-scoring (35* off 27) as they reached 112/5 in 20 overs.
ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 action in Oman
Finally, Oman saw more action in the long-delayed ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, with the T20 World Cup host venue of Al-Amerat getting a workout as the hosts take on Papua New Guinea and Scotland.