Israel come out on top


ISRAEL are the European Division Three champions after a dramatic last day in Spain when the hosts collapsed to defeat.

A Spain victory over Isle of Man at Sporting Alfas would have given them the championship but, after bowling out the Manxmen for 211, they were dismissed for 111. It could not have worked out any better for Israel.

When they completed the first win of the day, needing just 17.5 overs to overhaul Portugalís 112, it gave them a run rate of 1.11. So as long as Spain were not bowled out for less than 77 Israel knew only a home win could deprive them of the title. When the result came through from Alfas, the celebrations began in earnest on the top pitch at La Manga.

There was never much doubt that Israel, who started the day level on points with Spain and the Isle of Man but only in second place on run-rate to the hosts, would beat Portugal. They won the toss at the start of their perfect day and 8.4 overs later they had the Portuguese 23 for four with three wickets for Eliezar Samson.

The vital wicket was the fifth, Portugalís best batsmen Nadeem Butt caught off a mistimed pull for 16 and from 49 for five, they needed all their resources just to get into three figures That was almost entirely due to Siddaharth Hazare who scored 33 from 101 balls. He was ninth out and only seven more runs were added, with

Portugal bowled out in the 47th over. Samson finishing with four for 33.

At this stage Israel thought they would have to score the runs fast, to have any chance of overhauling Spain and they duly lost a wicket in the first over.

Undaunted Richard Aston hit 26 off 31 balls and captain Herschel Gutman maintained the momentum with 38 off just 32, including three fours and the only six of the game. Israel refused to panic, however and even with five wickets down and still 17 required, upping the run rate was still to the forefront and Yaniv Rasporker and Eshkol Solomon shared three boundaries in the unbroken sixth wicket stand.

In pole position, they then waited for news from the Spain-Isle of Man game and having completed their half of the job it was a pretty painless wait as the hosts got the necessary runs and the Manxmen got all the wickets.

It is not quite Division Two cricket just yet for Israel, however. They must now beat Croatia in a promotion play-off to get out of Division Three