The growth of cricket in Israel

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Israel Cricket Team ended its 2022 season with its first International T20 win. It was nice sunny weather at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club Ground, Waterloo, on July 3rd. Captain Josh Evans’ team needed to defend the target of 166 runs after opener Gabriel Schahat scored 66 runs. With only 14 runs to spare in the final over, Evans turned to Tomer Kahamker. What the world saw after that was a fantastic piece of resistance.

Kahamker took three wickets and gave just one run to help Israel register their first international T20 win against Hungary. It took just 4 T20I games for Israel to achieve this feat. By defeating Hungary, Israel proved the match predictions wrong and finished seventh in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Sub Regional Europe Qualifier Group C.

The result wasn’t achieved overnight. It resulted from patience, perseverance, and the sweat of the Israel Cricket Association over the past 54 years.

History of Cricket in Israel

The introduction of cricket to the land of Israel is dated back to the 1920s. The British mandate interjected the dream of 22 yards into the minds of the Israelis. Until 1950, Cricket failed to thrive. But it wasn’t finished. By the end of 1960, Cricket started to bloom in Ashkelon and in nearby Ashdod. The practice of playing on the concrete strip was finally rewarded by the persistence of Beit Ha’emek and Amiad, and the Israel Cricket Association (ICA) took its birth in 1968. 

By then, ICA had set up their national league of 10 clubs. In 1968, the 5705 Club from Bournemouth became the first to visit Israel. Around 2000 people turned out to experience the three games between the 5705 Club and Southern Israel at Beersheba. Next year another club from England - Mowbray, toured Israel. The success of these tours made ICA form the Israel National team that toured England in 1970.

The efforts soon paid off as ICA became an International Cricket Council (ICC) associate member in 1974. Israel National Cricket Team participated in the first ICC Trophy in 1979, followed by 1982 and 1986. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past the first round in all tournaments. Four years later, the national team finally got a breakthrough by qualifying for the plate competition. By achieving the next level, Israel beat Argentina by 1 wicket to finish fourth in their group.

ECC Membership and participation in European Cricket Championship

In 1997, the European Cricket Council replaced the European Cricket Federation. Despite being located in the Middle East, ICA was awarded a membership of ECC for promoting cricket at the grass root level. With this move, Israel got placed in the group of 32 countries. For the next 20 years, the national cricket team participated in the European Cricket Championship. 

The progress hit a snag during the first decade of the 21st century as ICA saw the national team relegated to division three. In 2007, Israel Cricket fans saw the first-ever international game played in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, the event became a forgetful memory as the team lost to Croatia by five runs and was relegated to division three.

Recent Development in the International Cricket Community

2009 saw things falling back on track for the Israel Cricket team. They won the ECC Division three. ICA achieved back-to-back promotions in the competition to play in division one of the 2011 edition.

ICA started a lively youth development program on the domestic circuit which helped them achieve excellent results in recent years. The national team won a silver medal at the 2005 Maccabi games. They repeated the success in the 2021 Maccabi Games. 

Israel Cricket - Domestic Structure

There are 12 teams in the domestic league divided into two divisions, most of them coming from Lod, Ra-anana, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Gat, Ba-er Sheva, and Eilat. All league games are one-day games, with each team playing 40 overs. In addition to the 40-over league, a T20 competition has been played since 2009.

International Level: Full T20I Status

With a solid structure implemented by the ICA, ICC granted full International status to the Israel Cricket team in 2018. This opened the door for competing with the 108 members of the ICC. Tragically, the ICA faced another hurdle after Covid-19 hit the world. With various competitions either abandoned or canceled, ICA had to wait for four years to play their first-ever International T20 game.

Israel played their first game against Portugal at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club Ground, Waterloo, on June 28th. Though the result didn’t favor the team, it was a tremendous achievement for ICA to make it to the international level 54 years after its launch. Israel lost the next two games against Spain and Malta. Finally, the day arrived. On July third, Israel beat Hungary by 12 runs in a nail-biter. The result marked Israel’s knock on the door of International Cricket as they finished seventh in the tournament.

Israel Cricketers to look out for

Gabriel Schachat - The first-ever Israeli player to score a half-century in T20I. Schahat, who had earlier played for the Israel Under-17 and Under-19 teams, finished the tournament with 117 runs in three games. In doing so, he only lost his wicket once.

Josh Evans - The South African-born right-hand batsman and legspinner was Israel’s leading wicket-taker. An average of 19 and an economy of 7.12 depict that Israeli cricket's future is in safe hands.

Israeli Cricket has come far from where it started. The national team has gone through various political demonstrations and protests. Yet they have risen from the ashes to achieve great success within a few years.

Now all ICA has to do is trust the process and keep flourishing in the dream of playing against the top teams at the domestic level and whatever opportunities they get at the international level. In that regard, the Israel cricket team must be looking forward to getting some international exposure at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Sub-regional Qualifier lined up for participation in the ICC World T20 Cup 2026.

The days are not far when Israel - the land of hope - will see its national team playing in the ICC event.

This article was written in cooperation with International Cricket