Lying second after the first day of group matches Pak-I-Care had four games on Friday to ensure progress to the final day of ECN 2022.
Playing Brigade of Ireland in the morning game they got off to a dreadful start with Kamran and Babar conceding 38 off their first two overs without a loss of a wicket.
However, the Badalona based club pulled themselves back into contention with some tight bowling to restrict Brigade to 63 for one from their thirty balls.
Brigade then opened with spin and the experience of Iftikhar Hussain, but the first over went for 18 for the loss of Muhammad Yasin. Babar then ent the first ball in the second over to turn the tide the way of the Irish outfit once more, especially as the next five balls only went for three runs. The third over was much better for Pak-I-Care, yielding 19 runs. That was the turning point in the game, and with Kamran hitting 27 not out from 12 balls, and Ihsan 14 not out to put on an unbeaten 46 partnership, the game was won with five balls to spare.
Next up for the Spanish were the Italian champions Brescia, the only team to beat Pak-I-Care so far this week. Brescia batted first and struggled against a competent bowling performance from the Spanish side. Despite a couple of spilled catches in the outfield Pak-I-Care restricted Brescia to a sub-par total of 42 for eight from their five overs.
In reply, Pak-I-Care had a sluggish start, but then had a very strong fourth over to require just fours runs in the ultimate over. Kamran hit a six on the first ball to enable Pak-I-Care to win by nine wickets and go to the top of the table, with games against Tunbridge Wells and Brigade remaining for them in the group stage.
Match three was the table topping clash between the team from Kent and the team from Cataluyna. Securing one of the two top spots would give those teams two chances of making the final tomorrow, so it was a game of great importance.
Tunbridge Wells batted first and proved they were worthy pre tournament favourites. They hammered 75 for 1 to leave the Spanish side needing just over 15 an over to overtake the English side at the top of the table. After a sluggish start the innings got motoring with Babar and Yasin scoring freely. Babar was finally out for 37 off 13 deliveries in the final ball of the penultimate over.
Requiring ten to win from the final over they scored a total of two runs and lost one wicket off the first three balls. Yasin then hit a six and a single to tie the game with one ball remaining. Facing his second ball Ihsan smoked the ball to the mid off boundary. The ball looked like it would go for six but a miraculous effort from the Tunbridge fielder had the Pak-I-Care fans momentarily worried.
Catching legally over the boundary ropes the Wells player had to throw the ball back in field. With no other fielder nearby it was grounded just inside the rope to give Pak-I-Care the single they needed for victory.
The win ensures that Pak-I-Care will go into the final day with a double chance of reaching the finals. Whether they are first or second remains in their own hands. If they beat Brigade they can not be caught at the top of the league, but if they lose and Tunbridge take out Brescia in the final game of the day, then Paki-I-Care will be the second seeds, courtesy of the Tunbridge superior run rate.
Match four of the day for Pak-I-Care brought about a rematch with Brigade, whose batsmen were finally beginning to find a bit of form prior to this game. However, Pak-I-Care got the key players of McCarter and Murdock out for first ball ducks, and the Brigade batting never really recovered from that.They finished their innings by limping to 44 for 4 off their over allocation.
Pak-I-Care responded in cracking style with the rain starting to fall. With 45 required Pak-I-Care hit 38 off the first over with Babar hitting 30 from the bat. Two balls later the game was over with the hosts winning with 22 balls to spare and Babar finshing with a personal total of 36 off just eight balls.
In the second match tomorrow they are likely to face Tunbridge Wells in the first of their double chance to make the finals. Brescia still have the opportunity to finish in second spot if they win the last group match, but would need a comprehensive victory over the Kent outfit, to usurp Tunbridge from that position.
All Photos – Credit Diana Oros – ECN