The Spanish National side finished runner's up to the strong British outfit Waltham CC in this years Taverners Competition held at La Manga earlier this month.
Seven teams participated in this prestigious event and in the Group stages Spain were given a tough draw, having to face a Cavaliers XI that featured some ex professionals,and Starr CC and Sentrum CC, two clubs from Norway.
First up for Spain were the Cavaliers XI. The Cavs. included ex Pakistani international Abdul Rehman and former Surrey and England player Ufsal Afzal in their ranks. The visitors batted first and managed to score 143 for 7 off their allocated overs. Sajid Ali was the pick of the bowlers, returning figures of 4-16 with an excellent spell of bowling in the middle of the innings after the Cavs had got off to a promising start in the first few overs.
Spain confidently chased down the total with 8 wickets to spare to give the Cavs something to think about for the rest of the tournament. Alcorcon's Tariq Ali lead the way with a 104 not out, in what was to be the only century made in the whole tournament as La Seleccion won with 7.3 overs to spare.
Starr CC were the next to feel the brunt of the Spanish batsmen as the home side recorded a very competitive 192 for 7 off their 20 overs. Tariq Ali again top scored with 82 and he was well supported by Gary Crompton who hit a fine half century in a partnership worth 115 runs. In reply, Starr struggled to keep up with the run rate from the word go and they were finally all out for 133 in the 19th over. Atif Ali, Ravi Panchal and Farhat Mohammad each picked up three wickets apiece in the comprehensive 59 run victory.
The final group match pitched Spain against Sentrum. With such a superior run rate Spain had as good as qualified for the semi final but it did not stop them making it a clean sweep as they rolled over Sentrum CC to make it three wins out of three. Batting first Spain made 168 for 5 with Tariq once again top scoring with 47 runs. Nisar Ahmed (31 not out) and Pedro Venus (27) also contributed heavily to the above par score at the interval.
Sentrum did make a match of it but their innings ended in the final over, all out for 108. Six different bowlers took wickets for Spain as some of the fringe players came in and took their chance well to give team manager Mark Spencer and coach Bobby Denning selection problems heading into the semi final.
Spain were matched against Wimbledon CC, the English club Twenty-Twenty winners for the last two seasons and one of the top clubs in Britain. Spain batted first and their first four batsmen, Tariq Ali, Armaghan Khan, Pedro Venus and Gary Crompton all scored runs to set the home side up for a good score but then an hat trick from Johnno Gordon for the visitors and a tail end collapse that saw Spain lose their last seven wickets for 27 runs left the home fans biting their fingernails as a target of 148 to win was posted on the scoreboard for Wimbledon to win.
A steady start by both teams kept the game interesting but then the rails came off the Wimbledon innings as a superb over the shoulder catch by Crompton and two silly run outs led to a innings collapse by Wimbledon that surpassed that of Spains. Ending all out for just 88 Spain headed into the final against the other unbeaten team in the competition Waltham.
Spain batted first and got off to the worst possible start when in form Tariq Ali was caught behind second ball without a run scored. Pedro Venus and Armaghan Khan started the recovery and both played well to put on 66 together. Nisar and Crompton also contributed and at the end of the innings Atif Ali hit an unbeaten 31 off just 13 balls to give the hosts a score of 153 for 5.
However, Waltham made light work of the target as they got off to a flier and they got over the line in the 18th over for the loss of jst 3 wickets.
The tournament proved to be a great work out for Spain as they faced some stiff competition that will be as strong if not stronger than the nations they will face in late April when the ICC Division 3 championships is hosted at La Manga.
Special thanks to Essex performance analyst Pete Williams for his invaluable input during the weekend and for all at La Manga who helped the tournament to be once again such a successful event.