Belgium is through to the World Cricket league Division 8. And although we won all 3 matches, the competition was much closer than it may seem. No game was easy and nervous tension was always there for the Belgian supporters.
Having opened commandingly by bowling France out for 135, Charles Wright producing the bowling performance of the tournament with 5 for 24, we found ourselves in some trouble against France’s spinners when they replied, and it took some serious hitting from Abdul Rehman to see us over the line.
This was only a hint, however, of what Rehman could do, for the following day he demolished a tired Austrian attack with a magnificent 48-ball 102 not out, enabling Belgium to recover from a shaky 136 for 6. Having reached 265, the Belgian bowlers did the job and took out the opposition for 158.
Before the last match, Net Run Rate calculations gave Belgium a decent mattress but Belgium wanted a clean win in what ended to be a very competitive tournament.
And although the bowlers again did well against Gibraltar in the final game, Amir Iqbal claiming four for 12 with his left-arm spin, Belgium had to fight all the way to preserve their unbeaten record, a fine 62 from Jamie Farmiloe proving the decisive factor as they won by a single wicket.
Meanwhile France did what they had to do against Austria to keep their chances alive. Keeping Austria down to 198, France then proceeded to a quick start with 62-0. However the wickets started tumbling and France had to realistically try to win the game rather than jeopardize their chances by chasing a high NRR.
Gibraltar fought hard to defend a modest total of 135 against Belgium, almost pulling off what would have been a memorable victory, and in Ross Harkins they had one of the outstanding seamers of the competition. But the batting struggled to make enough runs, and although Ian Farrell made an accomplished half-century in his one opportunity, it wasn’t a good enough performance to win the competition.
One extremely positive aspect of the Belgian success is the presence in the squad of six players who have come through their youth system, three of whom – Farmiloe, Nirvam Shah and Shaival Mehta – having been in the squad which won the 2009 European Under-19 Division 2 title.
This, then, was a competition which confirmed the value of a sustained youth policy for the growth of Associate and Affiliate cricket, but which also indicated the importance of attending to the particular demands of the one-day form of the game.