The Israel national cricket team is the team that represents the country of Israel in international cricket matches. Despite being geographically part of the Middle East, they are members of the European Cricket Council.
They regularly take part in the European Championship, and are currently ranked as the 12th best non-test team in Europe by the International Cricket Council, having been an associate member of that organisation since 1974.
As is most often the case, cricket was introduced to Israel by the British. Local enthusiasts managed to keep the game going once the British had left in 1948, but the game was struggling until the mid 1960s, when an influx of Jewish immigrants from cricket playing countries revived the game, mainly South Africa, United Kingdom, and the sub-continent.
The first national league was formed in 1966, which lead the formation of the Israel Cricket Association (ICA) in 1968. The league prospered despite conditions ill-suited to cricket. Games were played on dusty, grass-less football fields, on matting wickets. However, the enthusiasm of the players has overcome these drawbacks.
Israel became an associate member of the ICC in 1974, with only Pakistan opposing their membership. Israel competed in the first ICC Trophy in 1979, failing to get past the first round. They also failed to progress beyond the first round in the 1982 tournament and 1986 tournament.
They reached the plate competition of the ICC Trophy in 1990 and 1994 and in 1996 competed in the first European Championship in Denmark, finishing eighth in the eight team tournament. The 1997 ICC Trophy in Malaysia gave them a brief, though unwanted, moment in the spotlight. Malaysia does not recognise the state of Israel, and they faced political demonstrations throughout the tournament from the Islamic Party of Malaysia. They were the first Israeli sports team to play in the country and finished in 21st place.
In 1998, they finished ninth in the European Championship ahead of only Gibraltar and the following year travelled to Gibraltar to take part in a quadrangular tournament also involving France and Italy, losing to France in the third place play-off.
Israel have been playing in Division Two of the European Championships since 2000, finishing fifth in 2000, fourth in 2002 and sixth in 2004. In the 2006 tournament, the Israeli team were again met with protests, due to the then ongoing crisis in the Middle East. Their first match, against Jersey was cancelled and their remaining two group games were met by protests. Their play-off games were then moved to RAF Lossiemouth to be played under armed guard. The second of these games, against Greece was forfeited by the Greeks, who had travel problems. Israel thus finished in seventh place.
In November 2007, Israel were defeated in a relegation match against Croatia, in the first international cricket game played in Israel. The loss meant that they were relegated from the 2nd European division, to the 3rd. Their next competition will be in 2009.
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