Games We Play: U-19s return home after Euros

The Israel U-19 cricket team returned home from the European Second Division Championships earlier this week where it finished fifth in the nine nation tournament played in Jersey. The Israelis easily defeated Germany in their opening game by 136 runs, lost narrowly by three wickets to the Isle of Man, lost by two wickets to Gibraltar and then defeated Belgium by four runs. The tournament was won by the hosts who were extremely impressive in defeating neighbors Guernsey in the final. The Israel campaign was characterized by superb bowling and fielding but poor batting. Despite the strong win against a weak German side, the remaining three fixtures all followed an identical pattern, as Israel batted first, failed to score enough runs but then refused to accept defeat, defending their total like caged tigers. Left arm spinner Solomon Varsulkar was the star performer, collecting 11 wickets at an average of 5.5 and was named one of the four players of the tournament. Off spinner Raz Ben-Zaken was also amongst the wickets, collecting nine, whilst seamer Shlomi Korman was very effective with the new ball, going for less than two runs per over. Chasing 234 to win, Germany were well set at 80 for 0, before Varsulkar and Ben-Zaken began weaving their magic. Within a couple of overs each bowler had collected four wickets and the Germans were all out for 98. The game against a strong Isle of Man team seemed to be lost as Israel limped to 151 in their 50 overs. But the bowlers kept things tight, picked up wickets at crucial intervals and the Isle of Man secured victory with just seven balls in hand. The game against Gibraltar was excitement from beginning to end, but unfortunately marred by poor umpiring. Although poor decisions went against both sides, the crucial decisions went against the Israelis and probably cost them the match. Not that victory was deserved as the batsmen again failed miserably in compiling just 113, but three early wickets for Korman, a lucky run out and wickets for Varsulkar and Ben-Zaken left Gibraltar stranded at 50 for 7. That should have been 50 for 8, when Reuven Bergman held a sharp catch at silly mid off, only for the square leg umpire to inexplicably overrule the decision and call the batsman back. The pair went on to add over 30 for the eighth wicket, but there was still time for two more shocking umpiring decisions, as Gibraltar's leading player, who finished 58 not out, was given not out after edging to the wicketkeeper, and then survived after he should have been given out obstructing the field. Asked to bat first in the final match, despite a decent start, the Israel lower order collapsed and Belgium were set just 107 to win. This time the bowlers didn't almost do the impossible, but actually did it. Paceman Gabi Schachat provided the early breakthrough, the spinners strangled the middle order, and Schachat returned to claim two of the last three wickets as Belgium were all out for 102 and allow the Israelis to at least complete their tournament on a high.