DOUBLE JOY FOR SPAIN IN THE IBERIA CUP
Last weekend La Manga witnessed the resurrection of the Iberia Cup after a nine year hiatus. Unfortunately, Portugal were unavailable to attend this years competition so the format for the trophy took the shape of a two match series between Spain and Gibraltar.
The visitors fielded a youthful side that included Kieron Farrary, fresh from his exploits at the ICC Eurpean Academy in India, whilst the hosts had 10 players in their squad who had competed in the ECC Division 3 tournament in Belgium last year.
GIBRALTAR TAKE THE FIELD-GAME 1
In the first game on the Saturday Spain won the toss and elected to bat. In their allocated 50 overs the Spaniards amassed 218 for 9. The main contributors to this innings were Khan who made 40 off 21 balls, and Faran, Wasim, Howe and Spencer who made 35, 33, 32 and 31 respectively. The pick of the bowlers for the Gibraltarians was opener Russ Harkins, who bowled 10 excellent overs for 36 runs and in the process took 4 wickets.
In reply, Gibraltar started badly and were 56 for 4 at one stage before Farrary and Mirpuli steadied the slump and took the score past the 100 mark. The game was evenly poised when Farrary mistimed a spinning ball from Wasim and skied a simple catch to skipper Howe with the score on 104. Some hefty blows from Latin and Harkins kept the game on a knife edge but when the latter went with the score on 177 with only one wicket remaining the writing looked to be on the wall for the Gibraltans.
However, Phillips and Shadwani offered stubborn resistance and frustrated the Spaniards, and it was only when Shadwani was stumped by Ali off Beal with the score on 194 that the Spanish supporters and players could celebrate unreservedly their 24 run victory.
SPAIN V GIBRALTAR-GAME 2
Sundays game was to be even closer than Saturdays game. Spain made two enforced changes to Saturday´s side. Abbas, the 12th man came in for Sherry, who had work commitments, and Pennick substituted for the injured Howe. Gibraltar made one change with Watkins replacing Shadwani.
Again, Spain won the toss and elected to bat. Gibraltar started brightly and took wickets at constant intervals. The only real contribution of note was by Madrid born Pedro Venus who played a controlled innings of 75 that lasted two hours and 40 minutes. A swashbuckling 18 off 20 balls by tail-ender Lupson was invaluable in the context of the match as Spain finally posted a total of 176 all out off 46.2 overs.
Latin 3-31 and Mirpuri 3-45 took the bulk of the wickets for the visitors, but the four other bowlers, Gonzalez, Harkins, Watkins and Phillips chipped in with a wicket a piece as well and all the Gibraltarians could have been pleased with their days work in the field.
In reply, Gibraltar jumped out of the blocks and looked focused on the job at hand and after 3 overs were 30 without loss. The experienced Rocca looked at his best and it looked grim for Spain until Spencer took a superb slip catch to dismiss the opener off the bowling of Khan for 30, with the score on 50.
A few quick wickets swayed the tie back in Spain´s favour but again young Farrary looked capable of winning the match for the visitors on his own and when Mirpuri joined him and played with equal aplomb the pendulum swung back towards a probable victory for the Gibraltarians.
After a partnership of 49 both players fell within the space of five runs of each other. With pressure building the young Gibraltar side found themselves needing 15 runs off the last over with two wickets in hand. Spinner Abbas was thrown the ball by stand in skipper Spencer and with his second ball he bowled Watkins for 7. Two balls late he had Phillips stumped and Spain had won a nailbiting game of cricket by 12 runs.
The Gibraltar side looked dejected but the learning curve from these matches for such a young and talented side will stand them in good stead for this years ECC Division Two tournament in Guernsey. For Spain, two victories over a associated side 21 places higher in the unofficial CricketEurope rankings was very sweet and the players and supporters celebrated as one as the sponsors Q-Bar presented the trophy to skipper Howe.
SPAIN´S SKIPPER HOWE COLLECTS THE IBERIA CUP.