After the Covid-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments the European Cricket League returned for its sophomore edition. The eight team, three-day event has ballooned to a huge 30 team tournament that will last six weeks.

Each of the five first round groups takes place over five days with the winners progressing to the championship week starting on 14th March. Group A took place this past week with Tunbridge Wells (England), 2019 semi-finalists Svanholm (Denmark), Austrian Cricket Tigers, Star CC (Luxembourg), Helsinki Titans (Finland) and 2019 participants Dreux (France) taking part.

Tunbridge Wells and Austrian Cricket Tigers were in the top two positions after the end of the round robin phase with Tunbridge Wells top on net run rate after a surprise defeat by Dreux in their final round robin game when the French club bowled them out for 86 and chased down their target in just 3.1 overs without losing a wicket.

The convoluted play-off system began on Thursday. Fifth placed Helsinki were the first team eliminated when they tied an eliminator play-off against Star CC - who lost all five round-robin games - before losing on the golden ball tie-breaker. This got Star CC into a second eliminator match against fourth place Svanholm, but that was one step to far for the Luxembourg champions as they were bowled out for just 44, which Svanholm chased without loss.

The top three teams - Tunbridge Wells, Austrian Cricket Tigers and Dreux played a three-team round robin with Dreux finishing third to play against Svanholm on Friday in the third eliminator. A 21 run win for the French side kept them in the tournament with Svanholm eliminated.

Tunbridge Wells qualified for the final with a 28 run win over Austrian Cricket Tigers, with the Tigers then getting a second chance at making the final in a play-off against Dreux. The French champions were able to beat the Austrians by seven wickets to secure their place in the winner takes all final.

Batting first in the final, the English club T20 champions scored 128-5 from their ten overs, Viraj Bhatia and Dave Smith both top-scoring with 28. They then got Dreux right on the backfoot in the first over of their run chase, with Marcus O'Riordan taking three wickets in the first over to leave the French side reeling.

Another wicket in the second over with Dreux on just seven was followed by a 56 run partnership for the fifth wicket which was dominated by Mohammad Nisar who scored 48 from just 19 balls. He was out when O'Riordan came back on for his second over, and from then it was pretty much a formality as Dreux reached 101-8 from their ten overs to lose by 27 runs.

Tunbridge Wells now have a month to wait for the Championship week but the ECL juggernaut rolls on with Group B starting on Monday. Irish club champions Brigade will likely be the favourites and they will come against Griffins (Guernsey), Bjørvika (Norway), Royal Tigers (Hungary), Indo Bulgarian and Zagreb Sokal (Croatia).