Austria takes on Czech Republic
After a gap of three years, the re-established Austrian national team took on Czech Republic in two international matches - over 50 and 40 overs. From the squad that finished runner up to Norway in the 2003 ECC NottsSport Trophy, held in Vienna, only Wasif Mohammed, Benji Loader, Sukhvir Hira, Vipin Kumar and Amir Naeem remained, with many players unavailable for the fixture. The decision was made to use the matches as a chance to give more junior players a chance to shine - brothers Maninder and Sahil Bharti, Klemens Cathcart and Aman Deep were all under 21, with most of the side well under 30.
The first game, played in the Markomannenstrasse ground in Vienna saw Austria bat first. An exceptional innings by Klemens Cathcart, on début, of 101 supported by 36 from vice captain Benji Loader, 27 from Tharindu Perera as well as an unbeaten stand of 37 for the last wicket ensured that Austria finished on 321 for 9 - a record for the national team.
The Czech Republic reply, in what was the Czech Republic's first international match with a team compiled of ICC qualified players, started disastrously with skipper Corness falling caught behind of Foster's first ball in international cricket. Foster went on to finish with figures of 10-7-11-1. With the exception of Manjeet Malik (28) and Sudartha Udulaga (19) who put on 28 for the fourth wicket, the Czech batting line up struggled, with Babar Nadeem cleaning up the tail in a destructive spell - finishing with 5-9 to hand Austria victory by 246 runs.
As temperatures remained in the high 30s on the Sunday, a second match was played over 40 overs, with Czech Republic batting first. The openers Howard and Starý weathered the storm against Foster and Sahil Bharti but the Czech Republic again struggled to score runs due to tight Austrian bowling and fielding. At 34-3 in the 21st over, things looked fairly grim. The Austrian captain, Wasif Mohammed, sensibly took the option to use the opportunity to take a look at some of the back-up bowling - with 10 bowlers bowling. A partnership of 68 for the 4th wicket between Scott Page (36) and Manjeet Malik (35) guided Czech Republic past the hundred mark, before a double strike from Vipin Kumar (3-19) broke through. Czech Republic finished on 149 for 8 - a target which they knew would be not enough to contain Austria on a lightening fast outfield.
The opening partnership of Maninder Bharti and Sukhvir Hira plundered opening bowlers Joe Jindra and Laurence Acheson for 41 before Jindra struck to remove Hira, caught behind by Starý. Wasif Mohammed then added 49 with Maninder Bharti before Bharti fell for 30 to bring in Vipin Kumar. With Kumar and Mohammed hitting the ball cleaning around the ground they were finally only separated when the captain retired when reaching his 50, and vice captain Benji Loader joined Kumar at the wicket to see Austria home to a seven wicket victory.
An important foundation has however been laid, and the first step taken in reforming the Austrian national team. It is, however, too early to say when the national team will return to ECC competitions, but it is hoped that there will soon be regular international matches in Austria.