ECC Indoor Tournament in Mechelen, Belgium – 8-10 February 2002

The Greek team arrived early, practised for two days and were rewarded with the ECC Indoor Nations Trophy. Greece had threatened to win this tournament before but except in the very first competition had slipped up in the semis or final. At Javea in Spain it was a last ball lbw which deprived them of the title.

Few of the other sides had any slow bowlers for this was the Greeks’ Achilles‘ heel. Ireland were the vanquished opponents in the final and their lack of self belief led to a major re-arrangement of the competition.

This was Ireland’s first appearance and since, as yet, they play no indoor cricket at home they hardly considered it likely they would reach the final.Indeed by misreading the competition format they original thought they couldn’t!

Despite desperate attempts to contact Ryan Air so as to re-schedule the flight no such finesse could be achieved. As a result all Sunday’s games had to be reduced to only 8 overs each innings. This changes the nature of the game and there were some shock results in the quarter finals producing somewhat one sided semi-finals.

The beneficiaries of the changed format were Austria and Germany. Had Austria bowled better and held their catches they may have prevailed over Greece but Germany were never in with a shout against Ireland. Quite what happened to Holland, France and Portugal rather more fancied sides is no doubt the substance of much review with their respective coaches.

Unfortunately the two halls were of dramatically differing size. also the larger Nekker hall had soft side walls whereas the smaller hall had solid side walls. This produces very different games which is not really satisfactory for one tournament. But these quirks aside this was a very well organised tournament by Ken Farmiloe and his entourage of volunteers.

It must never be forgot that the ECC Schedule of International Tournaments imposes a heavy burden on the shoulders of the local administrators almost to a man and women volunteers with full time jobs and families.

Greece secured their second European indoor cricket title, beating Ireland with 8 balls to spare in the final of the European Cricket Council’s 12-team Indoor Championships in Mechelen, Belgium. This event, is the ICC World Development Programme’s only indoor tournament and is open to both Associate and Affiliate members, with some supposed parity in playing standards ensured by the enforcement of 3 age categories (U17 for the leading Associates, U21 for the remaining Associates and U26 for the Affiliates).

The first phase of the tournament was played in two groups, drawn according to the rankings established at last year’s event in Portugal, followed by the knock-out stage. The first day and half consisted of these group matches to produce the draw for the final day’s knock out stage. The draw was made at the Saturday tournament dinner.

Last year’s dramatic close finish was between Portugal and Netherlands and Group A saw reigning champions, Portugal, pitted against Holland, Spain, Greece, hosts Belgium and Austria. The Greeks quickly established themselves as the form team, with commanding performances in the group matches including an impressive 174-1 against Austria, whilst the Dutch team’s ability to defend smaller targets proved the strength of their bowling. The group was decided by the final match between these two, with the Greeks setting an imposing target before bowling out the Dutch.

Group B was by no means the weaker group, with the Danish team, who had been so close to a semi-final slot in Portugal the previous year, being joined by Ireland (new to the competition), France, Italy, Gibraltar and Germany. The Danes played consistently, winning all their group games, and France, who only managed 11th place in Portugal, excelled themselves to finish 2nd in the group, ahead of Ireland, Italy, Gibraltar and Germany.

The Irish teenagers were learning with every game and they beat Denmark in the first Knock out round bringing them against 2001 Champions Portugal in the quarter finals whom they beat by 10 runs bowling them all out. Germany overcame France, who they had lost to in the group matches, to set up a match with Holland which the Germans won, bowling the Dutch out for 57 which was a major upset. With the favourites fallen, Germany took on Ireland, but were overwhelmed giving Ireland an easy passage to the final at their first attempt.

The other semi-final hung in the balance for a while as the Greeks floundered against the Austrian slow bowling but then the Greeks proceeded to their encounter with Ireland in the final with more comfort than seemed likely initially as austria’s bowling fell apart.

In the final the Greeks managed to restrict their young opponents to 78-3 which was as much a product of the Irish teenagers’ inexperience as the accurate bowling of the Greeks.

Likewise the Irish batting line up was a bit awry with an accomplished left hander batting low in the order. Good bowling from the Irish early on was not sufficient as the Greeks ran and called well thus keeping the total moving along. Mishits found the corners of the hall and the Irish were unable to defend their total of 78-3. With 8 balls to spare Greece won displaying spectacular celebratory antics the like of which few MCC members will have seen at any cricket match indoors or outside.

Gary Wilson, the Irish wicket keeper, who had batted consistently, and whose wicket keeping had been nothing short of exemplary including some remarkably agile stumpings and glove work was named Player of the Tournament. John Holder and his umpiring team recommended this choice which was widely supported.

ICC’s film unit from World Sport Group were there throughout the three days and their film is due to be shown at 0830 Saturday March 9th on Channel 4. One of the great virtues of this annual competition is the opportunity afforded to the many Euro cricket officials to have unstructured informal meetings on the running, developing and promoting of cricket in their respective countries. The one over-riding comment that was repeated time again was this problem of the burden on local volunteers and the inability as yet of ECC/ICC to assist with manpower and/or financial resources.

There has been significant tinkering with the format of this competition which began as a straight nations tournament.The current system has various age restrictions as a supposed way of evening up the competitors. This is based not on how much indoor cricket is played, if at all, in respective countries nor on the number of registered players, all ages and under 21, but on whether a country is an Affiliate , New Associate or Senior Associate member of ICC. It is surely time to even matters up with a much simpler formula. Senior Associates under 17s all the rest under 19.

With the competition obviously being in winter none of the teams are the best as many of those will be committed to Hockey, Rugby or Soccer(Football). It is however a very enjoyable competition for players and officials alike and long may it continue but in doing so would ICC please adopt the 6-a-side indoor game formally for its worth is not only in Northern Europe and not only for elite squads.

It is a hugely rewarding recreational activity in winter and lends itself to the vast numbers of Indoor Sports Halls constructed throughout Europe which might as well incorporate Indoor Cricket Specifications as well as those for Badminton, Basketball etc.

The next tournament will be held in Denmark who claim with some justification to have invented indoor 6-a-side cricket. They argue about that in Shropshire and indeed there are now three indoor balls – the UK ECB one, the Danish ‘Pudding Ball’ and the ECC Euro Ball based on the Australian ball used in 8-a-side indoor cricket. All three are supplied by Readers who part sponsored this event. Everyone who took part in Mechelen will hope the ball will have been further developed for Denmark 2003.

Congratulations then to Greece and and a thousand thank yous to Ken Farmiloe, Paul Larivierre and their team from the Belgian Cricket Federation.

Match Results

Friday, February 8

Holland 98-4 beat Belgium 63-5
Denmark 77-3 beat Germany 70-4
Greece 104-4 beat Spain 74-5
Italy 83-5 lost to France 85-2
Austria 97-2 lost to Portugal99-2
Denmark 100-0 beat Ireland 87-5
Spain 92-1 lost to Holland 94-2
Portugal 98-2 beat Belgium 87-4
Gibraltar38-5 lost to Ireland 41-0

Saturday, February 9

Ireland 120-3 beat Germany 80-5
Greece 174-1 beat Austria 106-5
Denmark 86-5 beat Italy 78-5
Portugal 96-3 lost to Holland 100-2
Spain 135-4 beat Belgium 75-5
Denmark 77-2 beat Germany 68-5
Germany 132-4 beat Gibraltar 101-3
Germany 103-4 lost to France 106-4
Denmark 97-3 beat Gibraltar 82-5
Holland 93-2 beat Austria 92-4
Italy 68-5 lost to Ireland 124-4
Greece 123-4 beat Portugal 87-4
France 33-5 lost to Denmark 116-2
Spain 94-5 lost to Austria 96-2
Germany 82-5 lost to Italy 83-4
Belgium 97-5 lost to Greece 98-1
France 107-5 beat Ireland 70-5
Spain 81-5 lost to Portugal 84-0
Belgium 117-5 lost to Austria 118-4
Gibraltar115-5 beat Italy 86-5

Sunday, February 10

Knock-Out Matches
Italy 104-1 beat Spain 86-5
Belgium 102-5 beat Gibraltar 89-3
Germany 123-4 beat France 61-5
Ireland 95-4 beat Denmark 93-5

Austria 88/2 lost to Greece 90/1
Germany 55/5 lost to Ireland 60/0

Ireland 78/3 lost to Greece 80/2