Hosts Hungary retain Euro Twenty20 Cup
For those with a real interest in the global development of cricket, there were encouraging signs last week in the Euro Twenty20 tournament held in Szodliget in Hungary, where the hosts retained the title which they had won in Macedonia in 2010.
Of the seven countries taking part five, including Hungary, are not yet ICC members, and the event was testimony to the further expansion of the sport beyond its traditional borders with Serbia, Lithuania, Macedonia and Slovakia all sending teams.
The Hungarians, keen to become the next European Affiliate member of ICC, fielded two teams, with the full side beating Bulgaria by eight wickets in the final and the A team losing to Lithuania in the final of the plate competition.
Third place was claimed by Croatia A, captained by Craig Sinovich and including several other members of the Croatian squad which took part in Division 1 of the ICC Europe Twenty20 championship last month.
The competition has its origins in an invitational tournament held by the Carmel club in Wales in 2009, and has quickly developed into the major event of the season for those European countries which are just outside the ICC tournament framework.
One interesting feature is that each squad must include three, or preferably four, ‘native' players, defined as those who are not only citizens of the country but also ‘have lived in that country for the majority of their life, and will speak the country's official language at a native-speaker level', and at least two such players must be included in the side for any match.
In view of the dominance in many emerging cricket countries of members of immigrant communities and players from their Southern Hemisphere diasporas, it is particularly encouraging to see the presence of a significant number of indigenous players in several of the squads.
It was also notable that Hungary A included two women, Claudia Balogh and Brigi Hotea, both of whom played a significant part in their team's plate semi-final victory over Macedonia.
That said, many of the top performances came from expatriate players, with Hungary's Safi Zahir the leading run-scorer and Rajab Ali Khan of Bulgaria taking most wickets, closely followed by the hosts' Haroon Abel.
In Saturday's final, Bulgaria reached 121 for seven, with Rajab Ali Khan top-scoring with 29 and Abel taking three for 21 for Hungary. The home side then took 16.1 overs to reach their target; opener Eddie Allnutt led the way with an unbeaten 42.