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Ireland: International Tournaments
2002 European Championship
Northern Ireland
Tim de Leede of The Netherlands during his 52 against ScotlandTim de Leede of The Netherlands during his 52 against Scotland

The 2002 European Division 1 tournament was held across Northern Ireland from July 19th to 25th, with six teams competing – hosts Ireland, Scotland, Italy, ECB England, Denmark and The Netherlands. The Division 2 competition was held simultaneously, but that will be discussed in a separate review.

The first day was a complete wash-out, but with reserve days in place all 15 matches were completed – not always the case in tournaments in Ireland or Scotland! The Irish Cricket Union and European Cricket Council (ECC) had arranged for an indoor coaching session at Queens University with former Australian Test leg-spinner Terry Jenner, which all the young Irish hopefuls attended and got put through their paces by Shane Warne’s mentor.

With the weather hampering pitch preparations, it’s perhaps no surprise that the ball dominated the bat in two thrilling contests in the delayed first group of matches.

There was a huge shock as Italy stunned The Netherlands in a low-scoring contest at Comber. Joe Scuderi – who almost got picked for the Australian squad for the 1992 World Cup – made 64 of the Italians 142, Andrea Corbellari then took four wickets in a thrilling one run win. There was a quite amazing collapse by Scotland in their clash with ECB England at Larne. Replying to England’s 173 the Scots looked home and dry as 40s from Dom Rigby and Ryan Watson led them to 170 for 4. Incredibly though they panicked and the wheels came off as they contrived to lose six wickets for one run to be 171 all out. It was a result which would come back to haunt them later in the week.

Ireland's Andrew White batting against DenmarkIreland's Andrew White batting against Denmark

Hosts Ireland had little trouble beating Denmark by 98 runs at Stormont, with openers Jason Molins and Andrew White making half centuries and 40 in just 26 balls from Peter Gillespie in their 281. Three wickets apiece from Gary Neely and White ensured the Danes were never in the hunt, although Thomas Hansen’s unbeaten 44 ensured respectability.

Scotland bounced back on the second day as they hammered Ireland by eight wickets at Lisburn. Paul Hoffmann’s early blitz removed the Irish top order as they made just 103. Greg Williamson’s half century saw the Saltires coast to the win. There were also convincing wins for ECB who beat Italy by 62 runs, despite Sam Ketipe’s 71, and the Dutch who defeated Denmark by 73 runs. Luuk van Troost (96) and Klaus van Noortwijk (64) shared a fifth wicket stand of 147 for The Netherlands, while the Hedegaards both made 50’s in a losing cause for the Danes.

Italy's Joe Scuderi at the creases against EnglandItaly's Joe Scuderi at the creases against England

Ireland were given a real scare by Italy in the third round but managed to spare their blushes. Kyle McCallan made 75 as they posted 231 at Comber, but a century partnership between Alessandro Bonora and Sam Ketipe left Italy on 153 for 2 and seemingly set for victory. However, Gary Neely’s five-wicket haul inspired a collapse as the Irish won by 28 runs. Colin Smith’s 87 was instrumental in Scotland’s four-wicket win over Denmark, while three wickets apiece for Marcus Sharp and Ajaz Akhtar, coupled with a half century by Steve Foster ensured ECB beat the Dutch to stay top.

Greg Williamson just missed out on a century as Scotland ran out easy winners over Italy – caught on the long leg boundary for 99. Colin Smith also passed 50 in their total of 247, with the Italians limping to 110 in reply – three wickets for Majid Haq. Ireland edged out Holland by 11 runs in a reduced overs contest. Tim de Leede’s 51 not enough to get them over the line. ECB’s game with Denmark went into the reserve day but it was a one-sided affair as Steve Foster and Quintin Hughes both made 50s as they chased 117 to win by ten wickets.

Ireland v The Netherlands: Paul MooneyIreland v The Netherlands: Paul Mooney

The final day saw ECB top the table, but they could still be overhauled by Ireland who they met, or Scotland who faced Holland. The tournament had a thrilling denouement with the English clinching the title by the barest of margins – just one run separating them from the hosts. Richard Howitt’s 83 saw them post 226, but it didn’t seem enough as skipper Jason Molins’ brilliant 106 looked to have the Irish on course for the title before he was run out. Niall O’Brien then took up the mantle before he was adjudged run out coming back for a second much to his and the home supporters' chagrin. It proved crucial as the Irish couldn’t get the three needed from the last two balls.

ECB England captain Steve FosterECB England captain Steve Foster

There was also drama in the battle between Holland and the Scots with it too going right down to the wire. Another half century for Tim De Leede saw the Dutch set 183, and it was just enough as the Scotand faltered with the finishing line in sight. Fifties from Dougie Lockhart and Dom Rigby set them on course with a third wicket stand of 116, but Edgar Schiferli and Jan Esmeijer claimed three scalps each to seal a three run win.Denmark finished the tournament with a nine-wicket win against Italy – Freddie Klokker’s half century ensuring they had little trouble chasing 131.

ECB captain Steve Foster collected the Player of the Tournament award as well as the Division 1 trophy, while for Ireland and Scotland it was a case very much of what might have been with so many near misses.