|European Under 17 (Division 2) Championship: Isle of Man, July 2008|
Italy, Israel set for group decider
Having started the day with the news that they had been awarded their match with Germany, losing fewer wickets with the scores level, Israel reinforced their claim to a leading place in Group A with a hard-fought win over the Isle of Man at JHQ1.
And Italy proved too strong for France in Bonn, setting up an Israel-Italy clash on Wednesday which may well decide the group winner.
The Manx batsmen, having chosen first use of the wicket, found scoring difficult against a well-organised Israeli attack, only skipper Luke Lacey gaining anything like control with a fighting half-century.
Lacey and Richard Foden were building a crucial third-wicket partnership when Foden was painfully struck amidships and forced to retire hurt; that triggered a mini-collapse, and although Foden returned later to support his captain and become the only other Manx batsman to reach double figures, the Israelis continued to take wickets at regular intervals.
The Manxmen did not help their cause with some desperate running, three run-outs contributing to their dismissal for 148 off the final ball of the innings.
Levi Divekar claimed three for 31 for Israel, and Gabi Schachat two for 20.
It did not seem an overwhelming total in the conditions, but with Lacey taking two early wickets and Max Stokoe one, the Israelis were soon in trouble at 24 for three.
Opener Shlomi Korman stood firm, however, and he and Gabi Schachat added 50 for the fourth wicket before Korman was bowled by off-spinner Zaeem Jafri.
The pressure continued to build as, despite the periodic loss of wickets, including two further run-outs, Israel steadily worked their way towards their target, Schachat making 31 not out and eventually steering them home with nine balls to spare.
Runs were also at a premium in Bonn, where Italy managed 137 for seven largely thanks to opener Roshendra Abeywickrama, who batted throughout the innings for 37 not out.
He was involved in vital partnerships with Tobia Blefari (22) and Dylan Sarnelli (30), batting for more than two and a half hours in total.
Abeywickrama, who had started the tournament with a hat-trick on Saturday, then grabbed the first French wicket in his opening over, again setting in train a dramatic collapse which saw France bowled out for 59 in 21.4 overs.
His opening partner Dylan Sarnelli took two for 9, Abeywickrama himself two for 7, but the rest of the damage was done by Chandimal Raigamage (three for 22) and Michele Morettini (three for 16), only wicketkeeper William Smati reaching double figures for France.
The Italians have now taken twenty wickets for 111 runs in just 50.2 overs, and it will be interesting to see whether the Israeli batsmen are able to find an answer to their attack when the sides meet at JHQ2 on Wednesday.