Challenge League Day 5: Qatar and Singapore too good for battling Vanuatu and Malaysia

Qatar (293/8 off 50 overs; Rizlan 77, Wotu 2/28) defeated Vanuatu (197 off 44.4 overs; Kaltapau 67, Babu 3/45) by 96 runs.

Malaysia (210/8 off 50 overs; Virandeep 65, Prakash 4/34) lost to Singapore (215/6 off 45.2 overs; Paraam 93*, Aziz 2/42) by 4 wickets with 28 balls remaining.

Strugglers Vanuatu and Malaysia both failed to move up on the Challenge League A table on the fifth match day, with Qatar and Singapore overcoming some resistance to record ultimately comfortable victories.

Choosing to bowl on a Field A pitch that looked enticingly green but was ultimately very friendly to the batters, Vanuatu fell behind after an indifferent spell from their openers and were playing catch-up for the rest of the match. Apo Stephen and Nalin Nipiko both served up enough boundary balls for Zaheer Ibrahim (50 off 43) and Kamran Khan (55 off 45) to race to a 106-run partnership in just 13 overs. Some sloppy fielding didn’t help, and several half-chances went begging as the Ni-Vanuatu were unable to build any pressure.

Kamran took advantage of Nipiko bowling too full, sending drives and pickup shots racing through the arc (including a six that sailing high and long over midwicket), while Ibrahim was stronger on the back foot with the highlight being a glorious swivelling hook shit that travelled flat and fast for six. Nipiko drew the edge of Kamran Khan, but Andrew Mansale was standing at a wide second slip and couldn’t hold on diving to his left.

The introduction of Josh Rasu (2/33 off 10) helped stem the flow of runs, though he was punished in his ordinary first over with Ibrahim cutting through backward point and then sweeping fine. He got the breakthrough two overs later as Kamran swung uppishly to midwicket and Junior Kaltapau ran around to take a good catch looking into the sun. Stephen struck next over with Kaltapau taking a similar catch, as Ibrahim splayed a drive high to cover-point.

The double-strike allowed Vanuatu to regroup, with Stephen finding his line at the back end of his 10-over spell, and Rasu rolling through his overs tidily. New man Mohammed Rizlan 77 (92) held the innings together through the middle overs, as Williamsing Nalisa (1/61 off 10) and Simpson Obed (0/46 off 8) kept up the spin. Leggie Nalisa looked good at times, but dropped short too frequently, with Rizlan well able to take full advantage. Simpson was tidy, but perhaps stayed on an over or two longer than necessary, looping his offspinners well into the last 10 and providing too many scoring opportunities.

And while Qatar did accelerate at the back end, with Rizlan unfurling a range of laps and scoops, Vanuatu limited the damage with regular wickets – Rizlan getting too clever with a reverse paddle into his own stumps, and Wotu’s full length drawing Imraz and Murad forward to drive high down the ground into fielders’ hands. Still, the fast start meant that Qatar finished on a challenging total.

Vanuatu’s response was steady, with Nipiko and Rasu both making 15, but both were out to left-arm seamer Ikramullah deliveries on the off stump – Nipiko bowled playing the cut too late on a ball that wasn’t quite short enough, and Rasu timidly prodding for a caught behind. Andrew Mansale became left-arm orthodox Mohammed Nadeem’s first victim, as he left one on off stump that clipped his pad on the way through and he was adjudged LBW.

Junior Kaltapau looked comfortable early as he eased a pair of sweetly-timed straight drives for 4, while Jarryd Allan was busy until he ran too far down the track and yorked himself against Nadeem. New man Ronald Tari joined Kaltapau in rebuilding as they accumulated singles down the ground, and Kaltapau punctuated his innings with classy boundaries behind square. The partnership had hope growing in the Vanuatu camp.

The required rate was still climbing though, and just as Tari looked to accelerate with a set of aggressive front-foot pull shots to the rope, Akash Babu slid one past him and he was bowled. After that, it was a procession, with the last 6 wickets falling for 43, and when Junior Kaltapau was drawn forward and stumped off Babu, the last hope was extinguished. The Ni-Vanuatu finished some 96 runs adrift.

Meanwhile over on Field C, Malaysia chose to bat against their close neighbours and rivals Singapore, and they battled disciplined bowling in a dour contest, posting a modest total thanks largely to the class of Virandeep Singh (65 off 109) and Syed Aziz (46 off 60).

Young seamer Janak Prakash was the star for Singapore with 4/34 in his 10 overs, while Vinoth Baskaran tied the Malaysians in knots with 1/14 off his 10 overs – including a remarkable 50 dot balls. Opener Aziz was fluent early, hitting Amjad Mahboob’s medium pace down the ground and through point, though he received little support from his partners – Saifullah Malik was caught behind driving for 11 (26), then his captain Ahmad Faiz got into a tangle attempting to pull a low one and was judged LBW.

When Aziz had his off stump clipped by a Baskaran arm ball with the score on 80 in the 22nd over, Sharvin Muniandy (7 off 38) and Virandeep dug in for an attritional passage of play in the middle overs. When Muniandy fell with the score barely past 100 in the 34th over, Virandeep started to accelerate, dumping the spinners for sixes into the sightscreen and over midwicket. Amir Azim (20 off 13) and Ainol Hafizs (22* off 11) picked up the attack with a flurry of slashes behind square on both sides of the wicket, as the Malaysians lifted to edge past 200. 

Singapore’s response was an arm wrestle, as Pavandeep Singh (0/39 off 10) tied down their openers with a tight spell of left-arm orthodox, and Anwar Rahman had young opener Rohan Rangarajan caught slogging to midwicket. Kizar Hayat did for his opening partner Surendran Chandramohan, who chopped onto the stumps attempting a cut, and when Rezza Gaznavi was run out after a mixup where he was sent back to the non-striker’s end, Singapore were wobbling at 63/3.

Anish Paraam (93* off 101) and Arjun Mutreja (64 off 70) both dug in, however, absorbing the pressure early and getting comfortable for a 129-run partnership. When Syed Aziz finally had Mutreja caught behind slashing at a drive in the 42nd over, the finish line was well and truly in sight with just 17 left to get. Notwithstanding a hiccough of two wickets while scores were level, Singapore cruised home.

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