In two contrasting semi-finals at the Marina ground on Friday, the Isle of Man and Sweden booked their places in Saturday’s tournament final and made sure of promotion to next year’s European Division 1.
In a low-scoring match in the morning, Israel collapsed to 97 all out as they chased a Manx total of 136 for seven. The encounter between Sweden and Spain turned out to be an absolute thriller, with the Swedes getting the four they needed off the final ball to win by one wicket.
The earlier game was notable for two fine all-round performances, with Josh Evans bowling a superb spell for Israel, taking three for 9 in four overs, before making a top score of 34 from 35 deliveries, only to be capped by the Isle of Man’s Mark Williams, who transformed his side’s innings with an 18-ball 39 not out in the closing overs and then took three for 13, including the crucial wicket of Evans.
The Manx innings was given a solid basis by opener Gareth Morris, who made 53 from 48 deliveries with six fours and two sixes, but it was only Williams’ whirlwind knock which enabled them to set a reasonable target.
Max Stokoe in return then removed Herschel Gutman with the fifth ball of the first over. Daniel Hyman and Evans put on 46 for the second wicket before Williams dismissed the former. But it was Evans’s wicket which really turned the game, and thereafter wickets fell quickly as the Israelis collapsed from 68 for four to 97 all out.
Max Stokoe claimed three for 16, and there were two wickets apiece for Garreth Roome and Arne van den Berg.
After winning the toss and electing to bat Spain again got off to a flyer, Tariq Ali smacking a 23-ball 35 before he was caught by Swedish captain Yasir Ikram off the bowling of Sandeep Sharma. That turned out to be the top score in the Spanish innings, but with everyone else chipping in they managed to reach 190 for six.
The Spaniards hit 17 fours and seven sixes, four of the latter coming from the bat of Farhat Mahmood, who made 29 from 12 deliveries and who shared an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 63 with Gary Crompton. Aman Momand was the most economical of the Swedish bowlers with two for 24 from his four overs.
Shahid Mustafa took ten off the opening over of the Swedish reply, but he was caught behind for 20 in the third, and when Sadat Sidiqi fell two balls later it seemed as if Spain were in command.
The game however was turned by a fifth-wicket stand of 69 between skipper Yasir Ikram (28 from 13 balls with two fours and two sixes) and Chris Tebbutt, who contributed a crucial innings of 59 from 35 balls which included no fewer than six sixes.
The match took another twist, however, when Tebbutt was smartly caught by Spanish captain Mark Spencer, the second of his four victims. That made it 162 for six, and Sweden still needed 29 from three overs with four wickets in hand.
Azam Khalil and Khalid Ahmad took nine off the next, but with the third ball of the penultimate over Khalid was caught off Spencer, and 17 were required from nine deliveries. Aman Momand hit a six off the first ball he faced, then took two, and was caught of the last of the over, leaving Sweden to make nine off the final over.
Azam was run out off the third ball attempting an improbable second, and Sandeep Sharma joined Wakil Jalali with seven needed off three. Sharma took a single, Wakil was dropped at deep third man and the batsmen completed two, and then he managed to squeeze the final delivery behind backward square for the boundary which won the match and triggered wild celebrations by the jubilant Swedes.
With one team due to be relegated to Division 3, Luxembourg and Croatia chose the bottom four play-offs at Messonghi as the ideal moment to post their first victories of the tournament, against Cyprus and Malta respectively.
Richard Neale (35) and Tim Barker (39) laid the foundation for Luxembourg’s total of 142 for eight, while Joost Mees contributed a 14-ball 20 not out at the end of their innings.
Muhammad Mohsin removed Tony Whiteman, Nitish Gandhi and Chris Evans with successive deliveries to complete an outstanding hat-trick.
Mohsin made 22 when Cyprus replied and Nimal Durayalage top-scored with 29, but the Cypriots could only manage 115 for nine, going down by 27 runs and facing a relegation decider on Saturday against Malta.
Croatia maintained their Division 2 status with an exciting last over victory over Malta. Chasing Malta's score of 127, Croatia needed 11 runs to win with 8 balls remaining but a four and a six in successive balls by Paul Musin saw his side home to their first victory of the competition.
In Malta's innings opener Nowell Khosla made 43 from 39 balls while Michael Griznic picked up three wickets. An opening partnership of 73 which lasted into the 12th over gave Croatia just the start they needed and then Paul Musin completed the task with his unbeaten 22.
In the play-offs for fifth to eighth places, Finland defeated Portugal by four wickets, while Hellas proved too strong for Estonia, winning by seven wickets. Finland will now meet Hellas for fifth place, while Portugal and Estonia will contest seventh spot.