|European Under 17 (Division 2) Championship: Isle of Man, July 2008|
Italy top Group A, with Israel in second place
Italy qualified for Friday’s final with a comfortable 99-run victory over Germany at JHQ1 on Thursday, despite having rested key allrounders Roshandra Abeywickrama and Michele Morettini, while Israel made sure of second place in Group A by beating France by two wickets in Bochum.
The revamped Italian top order was soon in trouble against the German seam attack, and when they were 39 for three it seemed briefly as if the biggest upset of the tournament could be on the cards.
But this was merely the prelude to some of the finest batting of the week, as Tobia Blefari and Dylan Sarnelli demolished the Germans with a superb stand of 130 for the fourth wicket. Distinctly the most powerfully-built players on either side, Blefari and Sarnelli displayed a fine range of shots, dispatching the ball to all quarters of the field in an onslaught the German bowlers were powerless to stop.
Blefani was initially the more aggressive of the pair, and he had made 66 off 64 balls, with seven boundaries, when he was finally caught off the bowling of Mohammed Hayat.
Sarnelli continued to the end, and at one point there seemed a remote possibility that he might register the first century of the competition. But in the end he had to be satisfied with 88 not out, made off 76 balls with four boundaries as Italy finished on 258 for six.
The other middle-order batsmen perished in the hunt for quick runs, Wednesday’s hero Abdur Rahman Bhuiyan falling to a brilliant catch by keeper Yannick Bischoff, one of three wickets for Manishi Mathur, the most successful of the German bowlers.
An already imposing task for Germany was made all the tougher with the deduction of two overs from their innings, a penalty for a slow over rate when in the field.
But the German response was as painfully pedestrian as the Italian effort had been exhilarating.
Seemingly determined to avoid losing wickets at all costs, the top order played with a defensive mind-set which saw them struggle to 107 for four after 30 overs; their rate was initially not significantly slower than that of the Italians had been, but there was no change of gear, and it was only in the final overs, when the match was already lost, that Mansor Mubarik led a belated charge, making 37 off 43 balls, and the innings ended on 159 for seven.
Israel, meanwhile, claimed second place with another hard-fought match in Bochum, beating France by two wickets with four balls to spare.
France had made a good start after winning the toss, reaching 122 for five after 30 overs thanks to 34 from Usman Khan.
But then Gil Nojman turned the game around by performing the hat-trick – the second of the competition – with the first three balls of the 31st over, taking another with the final delivery to leave the French on 124 for nine.
A last-wicket stand of 40 between Shahzeb Mohammed and Sachintha Liyanaarachchi got the total up to a reasonably respectable 164 before the final wicket fell off the last ball of the 40th over.
Nojman finished with five for 28, while earlier Itamar Kehimkar had taken three for 23.
Cut to an innings of 39 overs – slow over-rate again – the Israelis were making steady progress when the innings erupted in a moment of controversy.
With the score on 39 for one, opener Shifron Waskar picked up the ball to give it to a fielder. The French appealed, and refused to withdraw despite being repeatedly asked whether they wished to maintain the appeal.
Umpire David Kenworthy therefore had no alternative but to give the batsman out.
The Israeli innings looked a little shaky at 66 for three after 20 overs, but Gabi Schachat again came to their rescue with a fighting 53, supported by Kehimkar with 24, and despite figures of three for 21 for Shahzeb Mohammed they managed to squeeze home.