Portugal stun hosts

PORTUGAL produced the first upset of the European Division Three Championships in Spain yesterday with a two wickets win over the hosts on the top pitch at La Manga.

A century partnership between Nadeem Butt and Siddaharth Hazare rescued Portugal from 33 for five in pursuit of 176 and set up a thrilling finish.

Butt, after an heroic 69 from 101 balls with four fours and three sixes, was the first to go, leg before to Tanveer Iqbal. However, Portugal refused to panic and Intesab Medhi joined Hazare. A wonderful straight six off Christian Munoz-Mills put the underdogs in control again. They were just 10 runs from victory when Talat Nadeem came back to have Hazare caught for 37 in the 47th over. Caution then did take over and only one run came off the 48th over and when Medhi gave Wasim Ur Rehman his second catch, Portugal still needed four runs from eight balls, now with just two wickets left.

Muhammad Mirza took a single off the first ball of the last over, Ramesh Daia a two off the third and then hit the fifth ball through the covers for what he assumed would be a boundary. The Portuguese celebrations began as soon as the ball beat the fielder and initially the batsmen made no attempt to run. They soon realised the ball would come up short but they did complete the single and the celebrations could begin in earnest.

At the start of the day a Portugal win was the furthest thing from even the minds of their own players. Spain captain Mark Spencer and Shafiq Ali put on 69 for the first wicket during which there was an unusual stoppage when a sprinkler went off in the bowler’s run-up and there was a 10 minutes delay.

Even when Spain lost four wickets for 27 runs, it was expected the depth in Spain’s batting would get them out of trouble. But the reality was the wickets kept falling, Hazare and Medhi each finishing with three and although Iqbal hit a six off Syed Bukari, three balls later he had Sam Lupson caught for a second-ball duck, 45 runs less than he scored off just 17 balls more in Monday’s win against Malta.

A target of 176 gave Portugal a chance but it seemed to have disappeared when Iqbal and Nadeem each took two wickets in the first 10 overs to leave them 16 for four. When Jay de Costa was out five overs later, Portugal appeared down and out but Butt and Hazare had other ideas and now a win over Belgium on Wednesday is essential for the tournament favourites.