Germany’s Under 19 team returned triumphant from the European U19 tournament that was held in Belgium last week after taking the trophy with a close final day win against France.
Following a successful training camp in Bremen and four victories out of four against a touring team from Berkshire (UK), our 16 man squad travelled to Antwerp with the target of winning the European U19 tournament for the first time after three near misses in succession.
On the first day, Germany started with a convincing 7 wicket win against Belgium at Antwerp Cricket Club. Bowling first, early wickets for Vishal Malik and Cedric Hille put the Belgians under pressure before left arm spinner Tony Verma took control with an excellent 5-33 leaving the Belgians all out for 147. We also lost early wickets but Dhushant Kumar (43 not out) and Hakim Sayeed Karimi (44 not out) put on an unbeaten century partnership to see Germany home with 17 overs to spare.
The second day saw the German team travel to Waterloo and the Royal Brussels Cricket Club to play against Luxemburg. Batting first, this time we amassed an impressive 330-9 in our 50 overs. Captain Janpreet Singh was top scorer, run out for 87, and was ably supported by Dominique Schmidt (run out for 71), Hakim Karimi (59) and Dushant Kumar (40). The Luxemburg top order was very impressive and we struggled to make early breakthroughs before we bowled them out for 209 in 46.2 overs. Top wicket taker was Hakim with 3-17.
The third game saw us take on Switzerland, again in Waterloo, but this time we didn’t manage to continue our good form of the previous days. We managed once again to bowl out the opposition for a challenging 206 in 46.1 overs with Hakim once again being top wicket-taker with 3-51. Our team was confident of reaching that target but a run out off the first ball and some excellent pace bowling from the Swiss openers left us in tatters at 27-4 with all our form players back in the pavilion. Our middle and later order players fought well to stay with Dushant Kumar who was amassing a good score, but wickets fell regularly, and when Dushant was last man out for 81, we had lost the game by a disappointing 47 runs. Congratulations to Switzerland who were by far the better team on the day and richly deserved their victory.
This defeat left our title dreams in disarray as we had to face a T20 game against the unbeaten France team on Saturday morning in Antwerp. A victory was a necessity in order to qualify for the final in first place. A defeat would have left us third in the table and spectators for the afternoon.
On a cloudy day with rain approaching from all sides, we were amazed when France decided to bat after winning the toss in bowler friendly conditions. Our bowlers took advantage from the start with Khalid Khan taking a wicket with the first ball and another in his next over. At the other end, Subair Ramanullah took 3 early wickets and suddenly France were 48-5 and the final dream was a stark reality. France managed to claw their way back to 101 all out but it left us with a target that we were confident of getting.
Openers Janpreet Singh and Schirchan Safi laid the foundations with a steady opening partnership of 28 as we made sure of staying ahead on Duckworth Lewis as the rain approached. France’s spin bowlers bowled excellently and reduced our batsmen to a slow run rate and at one point threatened to win them the game. The last over saw us needing 12 runs to win as the rain started to fall. The first ball was slammed for six to mid-wicket by Hakim Karimi before he missed the second ball. The third ball saw Hakim repeat the same shot and Germany had won.
We had beaten France by 4 wickets which meant we topped the group and had to travel to Waterloo to play the same team again in the final.
Then the heavens opened and it began to rain heavily. It was clearly evident that this was not a shower and that it would take a miracle for the final to go ahead and about 90 minutes after reaching Waterloo, the game was officially abandoned and Germany was declared champions.
The management and coaching team then had the wonderful task of telling our squad that they had won the tournament and were heading home as champions. The celebrations just had to be seen to be believed. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by the players, their clubs but also the coaching and management team of Sajid Sikandar, André Leslie, Jason Walsh and Brian Mantle.
It was a great day for German cricket!