Week 3 was the tightest group yet, however it was the Scotland XI who ended up winning group C and will return in just over a week for Championship Week, starting on the 10th of October.
All five teams involved in group C will be proud of their efforts. All teams were able to take at least two victories all week which meant that it would come down to net run rate in the final round robin match. Match 20 proved to be one for the ages, with it coming down to the final ball. A wild swing from the Belgian batter meant the ball flew through the keeper which meant that after almost 7 weeks of international t10 cricket we had our FIRST Golden Ball! It would be between France and Belgium.
As a result of the golden ball, no matter the outcome, it meant that France had improved their net run rate enough to replace Malta in 4th spot and take that last position in finals day of group C. Of course that Golden Ball went the way of the Belgians with a big six from Saber Zakhil which meant they would go on to get two opportunities to get into the final!
Malta will be left with a sour taste as they needed Belgium to defeat France and the French were able to take it right to the final ball. Malta finished with 4 points and a NRR of -1.104 which just wasn't enough as they bowed out at the final hurdle. It was a disappointing week for Malta, a team full with talent just weren't able to click when it mattered. Varun Prasath was a vital component for Malta, finishing with 6 wickets and 195 runs to his name.
Qualifier one was what many thought to be the preview to a potential final later on in the day. Scotland XI taking on Belgium. The Belgians winning the toss and electing to bowl first meant the Scotland XI were able to put a total on the board and apply scoreboard pressure in the second innings. The total of 122/5 proved to be too many for Belgium as none of the batters were really able to get going as they fell 11 runs short. Uzzair Shah picked up 4 wickets in their 2 overs. Scotland XI were in the final.
The all important eliminator was between France and their neighbors Luxembourg. Luxembourg had been the real surprise package this week, finishing 3rd in the group was a tremendous effort from the landlocked country. France winning the toss and electing to bat first was an interesting move. The French, struggling with the bat all week, were backing themselves on posting a defendable total, finishing on 94/7 left questions to be answered. Luxembourg would have been backing themselves, and there were still hopes going into the last over however the wickets column was the issue for the Luxembourgers as they ended 5 runs short - with only one batsmen facing more than 10 deliveries - it just wasn't meant to be for Luxembourg.
Qualifier two was a rematch of the Golden Ball spectacular just the night before, Belgium in their second attempt at getting through to the final were taking on a French side whose tails were up after a victory in the eliminator. France once again won the toss and batted first. This would yet again be their downfall in the tournament as they would only set a measly 68/8 off their 10 overs. Belgium decided they weren't going to mess about with the low total this time and brought “BelgiumBall” back to life and knocked off the runs inside the first half of their 10 overs. Some big hitting from Ali Raza alongside Muhammad Sulaiman meant France’s tournament would come crashing to an end in the eliminator.
France will feel disappointed with their tournament. They weren't able to carry momentum from their successful ICC World Cup Qualifier earlier in the year where they finished second in their table, only missing out on top spot due to NRR. There is no doubt that it was the batting department that just didn't click this week, as wickets certainly weren’t an issue as Rahmatullah Mangal and Rohulla Mangal were able to pick up 28 wickets between themselves.
It had all come down to the final that was once again predicted by many before the first ball was bowled in group C, it would be last year's runners up Belgium taking on a Scotland XI who made their debut in the European Cricket Championships this year. Scotland XI won the toss and elected to bat first in the final. In their bid to apply some scoreboard pressure they posted 115/5 from their 10 overs, which was around about a par total at the elegant Cartama Oval. Belgium weren't quite able to get into their stride this week and it was the same story once again in the final, not being able to cash in with many batters getting in and then getting out, they finished on 92/5, finishing well short of the target and sending Scotland XI through the Championship week.
Belgium were the favorites going into group C having been the runners up in last year's edition of the ECC, but it will be Scotland XI who will be packing their bags once more in a week's time to make the return trip back to Malaga as Championship week will get underway on the 10th of October.