A dominant Belgium side beat both Czech Republic and Luxembourg comfortably on Sunday to win the Luxembourg T20I Trophy. They won all four of their games across the weekend to top the table.
Match 5: Belgium (161/6) beat Czech Republic (74/7) by 87 runs
Belgium picked up where they left off against the Czechs on Saturday evening, winning the toss and batting first. In fact, the Belgian innings was close to a carbon-copy of the night before, with Syed Jamil out to Honey Gori without scoring for a second time.
Muhammed Muneeb was also run out for a duck, bringing Wahidullah Usmani to the crease at 2-2. Usmani would unleash a barrage out boundaries to get the innings up and running.
Whilst Mamoon Latif and Sazzad Hosen were removed for single figure scores, Usmani’s blitz was enough to raise 55/4 by the end of the powerplay. Shahreyar Butt entered at the end of the powerplay, and having made 206 without dismissal on Saturday, looked ominous.
However, Butt’s 92-ball vigil would come to an end, not through his own error but by an excellent piece of fielding. Naveen Ahmed and keeper Ed Knowles combined to run out Butt for 2, and with the score 50/5, the Czechs were on top.
However, Usmani’s barrage would only continue, and with support from Saber Zhakil and Khalid Ahamdi, the Belgians were able to post 161/6.
The Czech reply got off to a horrific start, with Gori out for a duck in the first over. A miserly opening spell from Murid Ekrami kept things in the Belgian’s favour. Then, a sharp bouncer from Ashiqullah Said hit Ed Knowles on the glove, the Czech captain retiring hurt with a fractured thumb.
Hilad Ahmed was out next ball, and three more wickets in the first 8 overs reduced the Czechs to 30/5. From there, it was merely a test of survival for the batting team, as the Czechs crept along to 74/7 at the close. For Belgium, a third win in three games meant that they had secured the series.
Match 6: Belgium (184/8) beat Luxembourg (135/3) by 43 runs
For the fourth game in a row, Belgium won the toss and batted. For the fourth game in a row they lost an early wicket, Muneeb out for a second duck of the series. This time, however, the top order would fair better, with Hosen and debutant Sherul Mehta getting the innings going.
But it would be the usual suspects doing the damage again. Usmani made 38 at better than a-run-a-ball, whilst Butt and Zahkil scored 28 and 44 respectively, both with strike rates better than 200. William and Marcus Cope would share 6 wickets between them, but the champions-elect were still able to raise 184/8.
Once again, early wickets would prove the undoing of the chasing side, with openers James Barker and Scott Browne both dismissed for single figure scores. Whilst captain Joost Mees was able to build and innings of 67* from 55 balls, the hosts did not have the firepower to match the Belgian bowling unit. Luxembourg consolidated their way to 135/3, but were ultimately 45 runs short.
Despite coming into the series as the weakest of the 3 teams based on ICC ranking, the Belgian side proved themselves far stronger than their opponents, winning all four games. Despite limited success from the top order batsmen, the powerful middle order including captain Butt proved more than a match for the opposition attacks. A strong pace-bowling unit was able to create scoreboard pressure early on in all 4 games, which ultimately won the matches.
These matches served as the first under coach Corey Rutgers, who has instilled a sense of professionalism in the Belgium unit. Speaking to Emerging Cricket, Rutgers was buoyed by what he saw from his side.
“The biggest thing for me was that we’ve worked really hard on our fitness, fielding, bowling tactics and fielding tactics, and we dominated with the ball and in the field. We looked like a professional outfit and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.”
Winning all four games, Belgium cruised to the title and topped the table with 8 points. Luxembourg and Czech Republic both achieved 1 win, with the hosts claiming second spot on net run rate.
To the surprise of few, Belgium dominated the run charts with Shahreyer Butt top, scoring 236 at an average of 118. Wahidullah Usmani and Saber Zahkil also made the top 5 over the series with 122 and 111 respectively. Joost Mees top the charts for Luxembourg with 124, whilst Honey Gori ran up 106 to top score for Czech Republic.
Belgium’s Ashiqullah Said and Luxembourg’s Marcus Cope shared the top of the wicket charts with 7 each. William Cope, Vikram Vijh and Khalid Ahmadi took 6 wickets-a-piece, with the former claiming tournament best figures of 4/18.
Overall, Belgium proved strongest across all departments and were deserved winners. Luxembourg and Czech will look to Belgium to work out how they can both make an equivalent step forward.
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