Cricket / European Division 2 Championships / Israel, perfect in group stage, fizzles in playoffs in Greece
'Our goal was to finish top two and gain promotion to Division 1, and after winning five out of five in the group stages we just came unstuck against eventual winners Isle of Man.'
After completing a perfect group stage, Israel's national cricket team ran into a wall last weekend, finishing fourth at the ICC European Division 2 Championships in Corfu, Greece. Israel thus failed to move up to Division 1.
"Our goal was to finish top two and gain promotion to Division 1, and after winning five out of five in the group stages we just came unstuck against eventual winners Isle of Man," team captain Herschel Gutman told Anglo File Sports yesterday.
Israel went 5-0 in Group A, setting up a semifinal clash on Friday with eventual champion Isle of Man.
In a low-scoring match, Israel collapsed to 97 all out as it chased a Manx total of 136 for seven.
The game was notable for two fine all-round performances, with Josh Evans bowling a superb spell for Israel, taking three for nine in four overs, before making a top score of 34 from 35 deliveries, only to be capped by the Isle of Man's Mark Williams, who took three for 13, including the crucial wicket of Evans.
Opener Gareth Morris made 53 from 48 deliveries with six fours and two sixes to get Isle of Man going. Williams followed with an 18-ball 39 not out to help set a reasonable target.
Max Stokoe struck immediately when Israel replied, removing Herschel Gutman with the fifth ball of the first over. Daniel Hyman and Evans put on 46 for the second wicket before Williams dismissed the former. But it was Evans' wicket that really turned the game, and thereafter wickets fell quickly as the Israelis collapsed from 68 for four to 97 all out.
Stokoe claimed three for 16, and there were two wickets apiece for Garreth Roome and Arne van den Berg.
"T20 cricket can change so quickly and after having Isle of Man 95/7 after 17 overs, the three overs of our bowling cost us a little," Gutman said. "Then we were on course for a win at 60/1 after 10 overs, but again, a few poor overs and the run rate kept climbing. It was a sad end to a very good tour."
Gutman stressed that no team members stood out during play, showing how good the team was as a unit. "Our fielding was far superior to other teams and our discipline was brilliant," he said.
Israel's depleted slide continued into Saturday's third-place match against Spain, losing by 90 runs at Messonghi. Israel was only able to field nine players because of injuries and religious observance.
The Spaniards made a powerful display, running up a total of 258 for eight, surpassing their previous best of 248 for six against Portugal. The runs came from Tariq Ali, who made 58 from 18 deliveries, with five fours and five sixes, sharing an opening stand of 78 with Armaghan Khan (29 ), from Pedro Venus Valiente (44 from 26 ), and from Nizar Ahmed, whose 19-ball 50 included two fours and six sixes.
Israeli wicketkeeper Shailesh Bangera discarded the gloves for this game and was the most successful of the bowlers with three for 32, while Gutman and Shifron Waskar picked up two apiece.
This total was always going to be beyond the depleted Israelis, but Evans (52 ) and Bangera (64 not out ) shared a fourth-wicket stand of 80 which lent respectability to their score, and the innings closed on 168 for four.
Israel had been more hopeful going into the playoff round. It finished the group stage last Thursday with a five-wicket victory over Estonia.
Batsmen dominated the clash between the two teams. Estonia's Nand Lal Riar made a 34-ball 59 and shared an opening stand of 57 with a patient Mart Tammoja. Tim Filer also pitched in, making an unbeaten 48 as Estonia put on a creditable 154 for three.
Riar also caused the Israelis problems with the ball, snatching two quick wickets as Israel slumped to seven for three. But Eshkol Solomon, who was Israel's most consistent batsman throughout the tournament, put on 55 with Gabi Schachat and 86 with Danny Hotz to turn the game around. Israel reached its target with ten balls to spare at 155 for five.
Solomon finished with an undefeated 85, made from 52 deliveries with seven fours and two sixes, while Riar ended on two for 20 from his three overs.
"I am very proud of what this squad achieved after putting in so many hours of hard work in Israel," Gutman said yesterday upon reflection of the trip.
"All in all, it was a fantastic trip, the squad members as a whole were excellent ambassadors for Israel and only made friends with other teams and officials," he concluded.