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Belgium made sure of their qualification for the World Cricket League Division 8 tournament in Samoa in September by beating Gibraltar in La Manga on Saturday and retaining their unbeaten record, but their opponents fought all the way in a tense, low-scoring game. Having been bowled out for 135 by the Belgians after winning the toss, Gibraltar struck back hard, and a sharp, accurate spell from Ross Harkins quickly reduced the opposition to 9 for three.
The recovery was led by Jamie Farmiloe, who batted with great concentration in compiling a solid 94-ball 62. He had good support from Robert Sehmi and then from Simon Newport, but Harkins came back to remove Newport, with a fourth catch for Gibraltar's keeper Karan Aswani, and at 121 for seven the game was far from over.
One run later Farmiloe was unnecessarily run out, and suddenly it seemed as if Belgium might be about to throw victory away. Abdul Rehman and Shahid Muhammad took the total to within one run of Gibraltar's total, but when the former skied a catch to Harkins off Iain Latin, giving the Gibraltarian skipper his third wicket at a cost of 22 runs, the tension continued to mount.
Shahid and Charles Wright were equal to the challenge, however, and picked off the two singles needed to give Belgium the win. Harkins finished with the excellent figures of four for 25.
Earlier opener Ian Farrell, playing his first match of the tournament, had held the top of the Gibraltar innings together with a fine 53, but apart from that the highest score was Mark Bacarese's 16 as the side were shot out by two left-armers, medium pacer Shaival Mehta and spinner Amir Iqbal. Mehta took three for 23 and Iqbal four for 12.
For much of the afternoon, events in the match between France and Austria seemed to be dictated by the prospect of a Belgian defeat.
After the Austrians had put up their best batting performance of the tournament, posting 198 before they were all out off the final ball of their allotted 50 overs, France went onto the attack, knowing that posting a quick-fire victory was their only chance of overtaking their rivals should they lose to Gibraltar.
Captain Arun Ayyavooraju led the way with a 28-ball 35, assisted by Usman Shahid in a 62-run opening partnership, and the French were well on their way to the rapid win they needed.
But then the pressure of scoring quickly started to take its toll, and with Babar Nadeem, who had earlier top-scored for Austria with a 37-ball 35, taking three wickets at a cost of 31 runs, France declined from 71 for one to 93 for five.
Two run-outs did little to help their cause, and at 134 for eight, still 64 behind, the French appeared to have allowed the determination to win quickly to cost them the game.
Usman Khan, however, had other ideas, and he and Tom Liddiard changed the tempo, concentrating on making sure of the win rather than worrying about the implications of net run rate.
Khan, whose three for 30 had removed the Austrian middle order including the danger-man Amar Naeem, added an undefeated 54, from 58 balls with four fours and a six, to his tally as he and Liddiard put on 67 for the ninth wicket and saw their side home.
Austria v France at La Manga 1.
France won by 2 wickets
Austria won the toss.
Austria 198 (50 overs) Babar Nadeem 35; Usman Khan 3-32
France 201-8 (33.5 overs) AK Ayyavooraju 35, Usman Khan 54*; Babar Nadeem 3-31
Gibraltar v Belgium at La Manga 2.
Belgium won by 1 wicket
Gibraltar won the toss.
Gibraltar 135 (37.5 overs) IM Farrell 53; S Mehta 3-23, Amir Iqbal 4-12
Belgium 136-9 (40.3 overs) JM Farmiloe 62; RA Harkins 4-25, IDM Latin 3-18
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