Group A of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League kicked off on Monday in Kuala Lumpur. This is the first of three 15-game round-robin tournaments to be played across the next two years.
The team that tops Group A after all three tournaments will progress to the 2022 CWC Qualifier Playoff along with the winner of Group B and the bottom four teams from the CWC League 2.
The top two teams from the Playoff will advance to the World Cup Qualifier in 2022, a 10-team tournament that mirrors the Qualifier played in 2018. The top two teams from the Qualifier will progress to Cricket’s showpiece event in 2023.
Summary: Match days 1 & 2
Malaysia 192 for 7 (Fetri 64*, Virandeep 46, Ramly 46, Jojo 3-38) beat Denmark 142 (Hamid Shah 42, Zameer Khan 41, Norwira Zazmie 4-24, Suharril 2-22,) by 40 runs
Off-spinning all-rounder Suharril Fetri chipped in with two wickets and a composed 64* to propel the hosts past Denmark in the curtain-raiser of the Challenge League. Fetri walked in at 37-4 in the 14th over and built a 51-run stand with Virandeep Singh. The elegant opener weathered an opening burst from Jino Jojo and saw out left-arm spinner Nikolaj Laegsgaard before assuming the role of aggressor in the partnership.
However, his newfound fluency was short-lived as he planted his front-leg too far across his off stump to an Oliver Hald in-dipper.
With half their side back in the dugout, Malaysia’s run rate started to dip below 3. Their next boundary came in the 42nd over—before which only one of the preceding 14 overs had gone for more than 3 runs—as the spin trio of Anique Uddin, Laegsgaard and skipper Hamid Shah applied the squeeze.
Specialist finisher Aminuddin Ramly decided that he’d seen enough, laying into part-timer Jonas Henriksen with a graceful swivel pull-shot for 6 over the head of deep mid-wicket. Oliver Hald was not spared from the death overs assault conceding two boundaries to Ramly in the first over of his third spell and three more in the penultimate over of the innings.
By the time the unselfish number 8 was caught in the deep for 46 attempting to loft a straight six, Malaysia had recovered to post a seemingly below-par 192/7.
That target, however, seemed a lot more competitive after Muhamad Hafiz trapped Henriksen LBW off the first ball of the Danish chase. Zameer Khan and Hamid Shah then stabilized the innings with a 65-run stand, during which the latter barely played a false shot. That was until he was caught at short third man trying to guide a Pavandeep Singh delivery that bounced on him.
Extra bounce came in to play once again as veteran Freddie Klokker skied one dug in by Syed Aziz Mubarak. This triggered an epic collapse with the Danes losing 6 wickets for 21 runs. Mubarak added to his tally of wickets when he had Zishan Shah caught behind in his next over. However, diminutive left-arm orthodox spinner Norwira Zazmie proved to be the destroyer-in-chief as Denmark’s batsmen struggled to deal with his arm balls, low trajectory, and variations in both length and pace.
Despite some lusty blows from Oliver Hald, Denmark fell 40 runs short of an achievable target with Malaysia opening their account with 2 points.
Qatar 232 for 8 (Ibrahim 63, Khurram Shahzad 46, Mahboob 3-42) beat Singapore 213 (Tim David 75, Chandramohan 67, Gayan Munweera 5-39, Iqbal Hussain 4-50) by 19 runs
Not to be outdone by Denmark’s collapse, Singapore lost their last 7 wickets for 15 runs in the space of 31 balls, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
At the beginning of the day, Qatar began their innings in circumspect fashion scoring 9 off their first 5 overs. Any talk of missing experienced opener Inam-ul-Haq soon dissipated as the duo of Zaheer Ibrahim and Saqlain Arshad capitalized on long hops sent down by the Singaporeans.
However, the spinners led by leggie Anantha Krishna wrestled back the initiative for the men in red as they brought the run rate back under control. At 129/4 in the 32nd over—and without Tamoor Sajjad, arguably their best player—there was every chance that Qatar’s hard-hitting batsmen would swing for the fences and be bowled out cheaply.
To their credit, Khurram Shahzad and Mohammed Rizlan re-built the innings before launching at the death. They were ably supported by new skipper Iqbal Hussain whose quick-fire 23 off 18 helped set Singapore a target of 233.
In reply, Singapore lost Arjun Mutreja to left-armer Gayan Munaweera of the first-ball of their innings. With a generous amount of swing on offer, both Munawaeera and fellow opening bowler Awais Malik were able to threaten the inside and outside edges of Singapore’s batsmen.
Surendran Chandramohan, one of the shining stars of Singapore’s triumph at the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifying Finals, was saved by two fortuitous inside edges that raced down to the fine leg boundary. He rode his luck, scoring 67 crucial runs to rescue Singapore from 32-2.
Even after he holed out to long off in an attempt to loft Mohammad Nadeem over his head for 6, Tim David continued unperturbed, blending elegance with power. Keeper-batsman Manpreet Singh, who chipped in with 40 easy-on-the-eye runs, stuck around with Tim David as they nullified Qatar’s spin threat through the middle overs.
With 35 required off the last 7 overs and two set players at the crease, the game seemed done and dusted. However, the wheels came off Singapore’s chase when David slapped an innocuous Iqbal Hussain delivery right back to the bowler. Manpreet was next to go a mere four balls later after he failed to keep down a cut shot that flew into the hands of backward point.
Before you could even blink, Singapore’s undercooked lower order was back in the pavilion, the game was over and Qatar had two points in the bag.
Canada 161 for 5 (Dhaliwal 72, Ravinderpal 38*, Matautaava 2-23) beat Vanuatu 160 (Tommy 42, Dutta 3-29, Eranga 2-23, Bin Zafar 2-25) by 5 wickets
Canada showed why they were considered to be one of the pre-tournament favourites by making short work of underdogs Vanuatu. Led by Nikhil Dutta’s 3-wicket haul and Navneet Dhaliwal’s 72, they catapulted to the top of the table with an NRR exceeding 1.80.
Vanuatu got off to a promising start with Clement Tommy punishing Cecil Pervez whenever he bowled short and wide. He was most harsh on Saad Bin Zafar, who he creamed for 3 boundaries in his first over.
But after he played inside the line of a Nitish Kumar delivery that didn’t turn, Vanuatu struggled for momentum against the spinners, eventually folding for 160 despite some late-order resistance from Ronald Tari.
When it came time to chase, Rodrigo Thomas joined Jonas Henriksen and Arjun Mutreja as the third opener in three matches do be dismissed on the first ball of the 2nd innings. Canada would go on to lose another 3 wickets before the end of the 14th over as Vanuatu started to believe they had a chance.
However, Dhaliwal kept his cool around the chaos and—with the help of a belligerent Ravinderpal and the dependable Bin Zafar—steered Canada away from the rough waters of 57-4 towards an easy 2 points.
Awesome roundup!! So much competition especially since the top team from both groups moves forward. Lots to play for