Denmark best Portugal to cruise into European Regional T20 Finals

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Denmark claimed their place in the European Regional T20 Finals and took a step closer to qualifying for the 2024 T20 World Cup by seeing off Portugal in the final of the Europe Sub-Regional Qualifier C at Waterloo. They restricted the Portuguese to just 110 before Hamid Shah and Taranjit Bharaj knocked off the runs in just 13 overs in an unbroken century stand for the second wicket.

Portugal had started positively enough despite Surya Anand's remarkable opening spell, which costed just eight runs from three overs and yielded a wicket. Kuldeep was rushed on the pull and caught off a top edge to the relief of Oliver Hald, who had been targetted at the other end. But Nicolaj Laegsgaard took over from Anand after the PowerPlay and had Ahzar Andani playing on for just five before Saud Munir struck twice in the eighth over to put Portugal on the back foot at 45 for 4.

The innings would never get back on track despite a rearguard 28 from Francoise Stoman, Laegsgaard and Hamid Shah throttling the scoring through the middle overs as Portugal scraped their way to double figures. Stoman was run out on the last ball with just 110 on the board.

The total never looked defensible, though Portugal might have briefly dared to hope one ball into the chase, as Laegsgaard could not add to his tournament tally of 189 runs, caught first ball of the reply inside edging Junaid Khan through to the keeper.

Shah and Bharaj made light work of the total however with Shah immediately reclaiming the momentum with a vicious swivel-pull over backward square for six four balls later. The pair never looked back. Bharaj hit his first six in Khan's next, rocking back well across to launch a length ball into the long grass behind square, and from there the traffic was largely one-way. The pair took Denmark to 94/1 by the end of the 12th over, at which point the wheels fell off altogether for Portugal.

Bharaj brought up his fifty inside edging Fakrul Mohan's first ball for four. Then when that transpired to be a no ball, he contemptuously slogged the free hit dead straight for a six. Bharaj would level the scores running Mohan wide of third man three balls later and in doing so denied his captain the chance at a half-century of his own. Shah would have the honour of hitting the winning run however, tucking Amir Zaib to leg for a single to see his team claim a nine-wicket win and a place at the regional finals.

Earlier, hosts Belgium pipped Spain in a last ball thriller to claim third place. They restricted the Spaniards to a sub-par 145 and sealed the win on the final delivery after a back-and-forth tussle. Spain had got off to a fine start after electing to bat first with skipper Daniel Doyle-Calle leading from the front to take his side to 47/1 inside 5 overs. But Khalid Ahmadi and Shagharai Sefat fought back with the ball, claiming three wickets apiece as the innings faltered through the middle. Lorne Burns struggled to hold the batting together with a 39-run 47, but fell to Aziz Mohammad with two overs to go as Spain stumbled to a sub-par 145/9 by the break.

Belgium were initially circumspect in reply with disciplined Spanish bowling keeping the run rate well under a run-a-ball for the first half of the innings. With eight overs to go the hosts were not yet half-way to the target at 68/3. Ali Raza would up the tempo however, his accelerating 29-ball 50 taking Belgium to triple figures and putting them back in control of the match.

When Raza fell to Zulqarain Haider in the 15th over, Sherry Butt was left to take charge of the chase with the lower order for company. Needing 13 off the last two overs, the hosts looked to be cruising home, but Mohammad Kamran gave up just five runs off the penultimate over to keep Spain in the game.

Yasir Ali was brought into the attack to defend eight off the last in what initially looked an inspired change. A string of singles reduced the equation to three needed off the final delivery, but Ali would lose line and length at the last, serving up a low full toss outside off which Sherry Butt slashed hard over the rope in front of point on the full to seal the win.

As champions of Sub-Regional Qualifier C, Denmark will join Germany at the European Regional finals next year along with any or all of Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Jersey, depending on how the latter four fare at the 2022 edition. Two more berths for the European Finals remain on offer, with a total of twenty European teams contesting the next two Sub-Regional Qualifiers, both hosted by Finland, the first starting in just over a week's time.



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