Spain finished a respectable third out of six teams in Group B of the ICC World Twenty20 Europe Region Qualifiers.
After losses in their first two games against the teams that qualified in Group B (Jersey and Italy) Spain faced the Isle of Man on the morning of Saturday 1st Septmber. The Manx men are currently ranked 40th in the world compared to Spain's 56th place ranking on the global stage.
The VOC ground in Rotterdam played host and after winning the toss Spain elected to field. Once again, the ICC and ESPN websites failed to provide watching fans a commentary (stalling after the third ball of the first over) and it was left to Team Manager Gary Crompton to feed regular updates to Spanish supporters via his facebook page.
Spain started well with in form Ravi Panchal bowling a wicket maiden in the fourth over to have the Islanders struggling at 12 for 1. The Pinatar Pirate star bowled his four overs straight through and by the eigthth over Spain had its opponents rattled with the score on 31 for 3.
The Isle of Man never recovered and continued to lose wickets at regular intervals. An up tempo fielding performance intensified the pressure on the IOM batsmen and they were finally all out for 87 on the last ball of the innings.
The Spanish reply did not start well with Kuldeep Lal out without a run on the board. Asjad Muhammad and Yasir Ali then put on 56 for the second wicket before the former was run out in the tenth over. With the score on 72 Spain had a little bit of a wobble, losing two wickets. However, Paul Hennessy and Vinod Vini held their nerve and the game was won when Vinod smashed a six to give Spain their first points in the tournament.
(Yasir Ali - Man of the Match performances against Isle of Man & Belgium)
The highlight of the tournament was somewhat dampened in the afternoon when Finland defeated Spain at the same ground. Ranked two places below Spain the Finns were put into bat and were restricted to 119 for 6 off their twenty overs allocation. Unfortunately, Spain failed to overtake the Finish totally and finished their innings on 91 for 9, some twenty runs short of victory.
Spain had to wait until the following afternoon, for their next game, against Belgium. With all the other matches in the group completed the team knew a victory would secure a third place position.
(Spain warming up against Belgium)
Spain had a tenacity and passion in this game that had been lacking in a couple of others and it showed in their performance. The Spanish lost the toss for the first time in the competition as Belgium elected to bat.
Belgium accrued 126 for 6 in their innings with big hitting Shaheryar Butt hitting an unbeaten 46 from just 44 balls. In this match Spain applied much more application to their batting and were given a strong start by Atif Mehmood and Ravi Panchal who took the score to 28 off just 20 balls. The imputus of the power play gave Spain control of the game and as a result Panchal and Yasir Ali put on 49 for the second wicket, in just shy of 11 overs at the crease togather.
A flurry of wickets looked like putting Belgium back in the game but a quickfire 28 by Awais Ahmed off just 17 balls calmed Spanish nerves. Spain finally got over the line with 5 balls and four wickets to spare. Another winning performance against a team ranked above them and all in all a tournament with lots of positives in between some disappointments.
Team Coach Bobby Denning summed up the mood of the Spanish camp with the comment..
"A real up and down week here in the Netherlands with Cricket Espana which ends on a more positive note than we expected at one point. Brilliant to have those ups and downs with a group of talented players who now understand what is necessary to be the best-not just a “good” side" ..
Italy, Jersey, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Guernsey now qualifier to the next stage of the World T-Twenty and these six teams are now just two steps away ICC T-Twenty World Cup.