By Richard Boxall
The Cyprus cricket team finished a creditable fourth in the European qualifier for the World T20 held in Finland over the past week, after losing by 11 runs against the host country in their third/fourth place play-off.
Both countries had finished second in their group, and the Cyprus team can come home feeling reasonably satisfied with their efforts, and with valuable experience gained of what is required to improve further in future.
The match itself was rather frustrating as it was a case of what might have been, with a number of opportunities not being grasped.
Cyprus did well to restrict Finland to 28-1 in the six-over powerplay, and to 47-3 at the halfway point, but then two dropped catches off consecutive balls – one off the bowling of Sadun Chamal, one off Ruwan Manawasinha – allowed the home team to flourish with a 44-run partnership in 25 balls.
Then a good catch by Shoaib Ahmad was followed by another drop, leaving Finland on 101-5 after 15 overs, with the match in the balance. However another strong partnership of 40 off 18 balls, including three sixes in the 17th over, put Finland in charge, only for Cyprus captain Gurpartap Singh to strike back with three wickets in the 18th, giving him figures of 4-35.
Another 17 runs came from the 19th over, before Neeraj Tiwari ended the innings with two wickets in the last over, giving him the outstanding figures of 3-14 from 3.3 overs.
A total of 159 was challenging but within reach, with the outfield faster than on previous days. Unfortunately Shoaib, who had a good tournament overall, ran himself out attempting a third run which should have been there, and the powerplay ended with the score 41-3.
Gurpartap came in and looked to play a captain’s innings, before Finland brought back their main bowler who yorked him for 27 from 16 balls. Sadun was keeping one end going but needed someone to stay and build a partnership with him. Tejwinder Singh briefly looked a likely man until he too was yorked for 14.
The required rate was going up and up, and although Sadun reached his maiden international 50, the last over began with 22 runs still needed. Iftekar Jaman gave Cyprus hope by hitting the first two balls for six and four, but when he was caught next ball the game was up and Cyprus finished on 148-7, losing by 11 runs.
So Finland finished third and Cyprus fourth. The top-place playoff was won by Italy who beat Isle of Man by seven wickets.
On an individual level there were several noteworthy achievements by Cyprus players. Singh was the second most successful bowler in the tournament with 10 wickets, while Scott Austin held the second highest number of catches (7).
Sadun scored the most runs for Cyprus (110) and was their most economical bowler, closely followed by Shoaib Ahmad – both of them conceding less than six runs per over.
Tejwinder Singh had the highest strike rate in the competition, even beating Italy’s Gareth Berg who is an experienced county cricketer in England.
The squad can be pleased with their achievements, and look forward to future tournaments, which are likely to occur more frequently as the world game tries to be more inclusive of smaller countries.
Full tournament standings:
2 Isle of Man