By Shahzad Raza
MUSCAT: Anything is possible in cricket and everything, perhaps, in a T20 game. The Bahrain national team was proof-positive with an incredible 6-wicket win over Qatar on Tuesday, February 25 that kept beating the permutations that could have saved Oman from an unexpected exit from the ACC Western Region T20 Tournament held at the Al Amerat Cricket Stadium.
Hoping for a Bahrain loss to Qatar so that it could qualify for the semifinals after its big win over Maldives earlier in the day, Oman saw its hopes fade and quickly end in disappointment as Bahrain played out of its skin to first subdue Qatar, and then dominate it like nobody could in the tournament thus far.
Earlier, UAE had to use all its experience and energy to overcome a spirited Saudi Arabia in their last Group B game on Tuesday. The Emirates side now tops the group, followed by Kuwait, while Bahrain heads Group A followed by Qatar.
The Bahrainis first bowled like there was no tomorrow, firing in thunderbolts that went through the Qatari defences and then relied on the guile of its spinners to keep them guessing when they should have been going after them to set a fighting total on the board. Kamran Khan topscored again but his 46 came off 43 balls due perhaps to too many wickets falling around him. Abdul Majid was the pick of Bahraini bowlers, taking 4 for 23 runs.
Bahrain started the game as the third-placed team in Group A after Oman scored a 10-wicket win over Maldives in the morning game. Bahrain also knew it required 106 to win (but doing it inside 15 overs would take its net run rate above that of Oman), and that it could still top the group if those runs were scored inside 12 overs.
In the next one hour or so Bahrain batted as well as Qatar bowled poorly to make all the possibilities work in its favour; throwing Oman out of the competition, relegating first-placed Qatar to second, and avoiding a semifinal clash with the unbeaten UAE. Bahrain is now happy to play Kuwait in the semifinal clash on Wednesday, leaving Qatar to face the red-hot UAE in the other semifinal.
Bahrain captain Anasim Khan was overjoyed after the incredible win.
“I am proud of the way we played today. We had worked things out in our team meeting last night and knew well what was required to be done against Qatar — as Oman was expected to beat Maldives, we had to win and win pretty well to make it to the semifinals. We played our best game in the tournament so far to make it possible,” said an elated Khan.
“We started our match knowing that we must beat Qatar in 14 overs to overtake Oman in team standings and inside 12 overs to take the top spot in our group. We had a plan in place and everything worked in our favour. Sarfaraz (Ali) and Ammad (Uddin) played exceptionally well to make sure we crossed the line when it mattered,” he added.
UAE was tested to the limits by a resurgent Saudi side that first bowled it for 150 and then came close to chasing it down, falling short by only 12 runs. UAE bowlers and fielder had to use all their experience and international exposure to keep the spirited Saudis under check.
Opener Chirag Suri, who was adjudged the player of the match for his crucial 75 off 55, kept UAE in the game as wickets continued to fall around him. His 75-run fourth wicket partnership with Rohan Mustafa, who was dropped down the order, was the reason UAE got to a fighting total against a Saudi attack led by Abdul Wahid who picked up 4 for 14.
Though no Saudi batsman scored big, a few of them struck some hefty blows to make the UAE work hard for a win.
UAE’s top batsman Suri said his team had prepared hard for the tournament and was expecting to do well.
“We are a side that is quite up the ranking, so when we come out to a tournament like this we must be dominating. If we are not dominating we are doing something wrong. It’s good to put in some convincing performances, but we have to be more clinical and must set high standards. Personally speaking, I should have scored a hundred today. I have been throwing my wicket away for the last two games and I have to work on it,” he added.
The UAE opener said he was pleased to see the high standards of fielding in the tournament.
“All the Asian sides in the tournament look so good. They have certainly improved in recent times. Just look at the Saudis today, they were exceptional in the field,” said Suri.
A few paces away at OC Turf 1, Oman openers Khawar Ali and Jatinder Singh did not put a foot wrong as they went about taking Oman past Maldives, unleashing an array of strokes around the park to overhaul a target of 130 in less than 15 overs. Khawar was in particularly imperious form and won his second player of the match award in three games for his stroke of 72 off 45. Jatinder’s 48 off 41 was a fine exhibition of his trademark cuts, pulls, and drives.
Oman did well to restrict Maldives to 129 for 7 and nobody except Rishwan Mohamed, who struck an entertaining 61 with the help of four sixes, was able to break free. Oman’s pace spearhead Bilal Khan bagged two wickets for only 16 runs.
In the afternoon’s other game, Kuwait had no trouble defeating a hapless Iran by 8 wickets and setting up a semifinal clash with Qatar.
Mohammed Aslam Nawfer bowled an outstanding spell of four overs, taking four wickets for only five runs as Iran scored 108 for 8. He bowled an unbelievable 20 dot balls out of the twenty four he delivered.
Usman Patel’s unbeaten 59 was the highlight of Kuwait’s response, completing a comfortable victory in only 11.5 overs.
Brief scores: Qatar 106 for 9 in 20 overs (Kamran Khan 46 – 3×4, 3×6, Tamoor Sajjad 23 – 1×4. Abdul Majid 4-23, Imran Javed 2-10, Imran Masood 2-24) lost to Bahrain 109 for 4 in 11.5 overs (Sarfaraz Ali 43 – 3×4, 4×6, Ammad Uddin 41 not out – 4×4, 3×6.
Brief scores: Iran 108 for 8 in 20 overs (Mohammed Yousef 39 – 4×4, Ali Mohammadipour 19 – 4×4, Navid Balouch 19 – 1×4. Mohammed Aslam Nawfer 4-05, Ilyas Ahmed 2-24) lost to Kuwait 109 for 2 in 12.5 overs (Usman Patel 59 not out – 10×4, Bilal Muhammed 34 not out – 5×4, 1×6) by 8 wickets.
Brief scores: Maldives 129 for 7 in 20 overs (Rishwan Mohamed 61 – 5×4, 4×6, Hassan Haziq 34 – 1×4, 1×6. Bilal Khan 2-16) lost to Oman 132 for 0 in 14.2 overs (Khawar Ali 72 not out – 8×4, 2×6, Jatinder Singh 48 not out – 3×4, 1×6) by 10 wickets.
Brief scores: UAE 150 all out in 19 overs (Chirag Suri 75 – 6×4, 3×6, Rohan Mustafa 32 – 3×4, 1×6. Abdul Wahid 4-14, Abdul Waheed 2-11) beat Saudi Arabia 138 for 7 in 20 overs (Malik Muhammed Naeem 27 – 2×6, Shamsuddheen Englam 23 – 4×4, Faisal Khan 22 – 4×4. Ahmed Raza 2-18, Rohan Mustafa 2-23) by 12 runs.