Challenge League Day 6: Denmark thrills while Canada dominates

Denmark (297/7 in 50 overs; Shah 138, Mahboob 2/45) defeated Singapore (296 in 49.5 overs; Rangarajan 87, Anand 3/44) by 1 run.

Canada (275/9 in 50 overs; Dhaliwal 103, Nadeem 3/41) defeated Qatar (91 in 25.5 overs; Ibrahim 34, Gordon 4/22) by 184 runs.

The sixth match day of the Canadian leg of Challenge League A saw two contrasting contests and two captain’s knocks, with the hosts continuing their unbeaten run by thrashing Qatar, and Denmark edging out Singapore in a thrilling encounter to leave them now two wins adrift of Canada.

Electing to bat on Maple Leaf Cricket Club field A, Denmark captain Hamid Shah was the backbone of their innings with a classy ton (138 off 133). His opening partner Nicolaj Damgaard got off to a zippy start, hitting powerfully through the midwicket-square leg region for a typically aggressive 17 (16), but when he was out edging behind across the line of a tame-looking Amjad Mahboob delivery, Shah and Surya Anand (39 off 78) dug in to build a platform.

Shah especially was classy, unfurling his trademark cover drives and clipping with ease off his legs, as he set himself for a big knock. Anand edged Mahboob behind, reaching for a drive outside off, and with the score on 120/2 after 30 overs, the Danes began to pick up the pace – 177 came off the last 20, and 102 off the last 10, with Shah a pillar of strength and others batting around him.

Shah was particularly severe on seamers Janak Prakash (1/71 off 10) and Aryaman Uchil (0/86 off 10), finding the height necessary to free his arms square of the wicket against Prakash, and brutalising Uchil with a 22-run over in the 45th. First he disdainfully swung a length delivery high and long over midwicket, then crashed a pair of straight fours and he concluded the over with another six flicked to the same region as the first and it popped out of Chandramohan’s fingers on the boundary to land over the rope. Zameer Khan, playing down the order at number 6, supported his captain ably by feeding him the strike with 40 (35), and the tail wagged with regular boundaries to push the total almost to 300.

The second innings was an arm-wrestle that turned into an all-time classic, with moments of individual brilliance and changes of momentum aplenty. Early on, Rohan Rangarajan held the chase together with a fluent 87 (91). He launched Anand over midwicket for six in the 7th over, and thereafter settled into his work with steady support from Rezza Gaznavi (14 off 20), Anish Paraam (23 off 36), and Arjun Mutreja (43 off 38).

Oliver Hald (1/49 off 10) was the man to break, getting Mutreja caught at cover by Damgaard as he drove too uppishly at a wider one. Seamer Saud Munir made it a double-strike an over later, Rangarajan hitting it straight up as he slashed at a drive outside off, and Denmark had well and truly wrested back the initiative. But with the score at 178/5 off 32, Singapore’s required run rate was still manageable and wicketkeeper Manpreet Singh (44 off 42) collected 36 vital runs with Aman Desai over the next 5 overs.

Damgaard removed Desai to keep Denmark in the fight, caught at backward square looking to repeat a boundary there from earlier in the over, but Janak Prakash (14 off 18) hung around and allowed Manpreet to continue the attack. He thrashed a brilliant six over cover with an inside-out drive off Hamid Shah, but a lapse in concentration saw him meekly prod back a drive to Damgaard, who snaffled the catch on the last ball of his quota (the 42nd) and roared in triumph.

Anand had Prakash next over as he lofted straight to Hald at long-on, and Denmark were again on top with 39 needed of 36 and only two wickets left. Hald grabbed another two overs later, running in from the same position and diving forward to remove Vinoth Baskaran, and the equation was 31 off the last 24.

Singapore skipper Mahboob dumped a huge straight six off Munir to bring it down to 13 from 12, Oliver Hald countered with an exemplary penultimate over over blockhole bowling to leave the requirement at 10 off the final over. Aryaman Uchil, looking to make up for his poor bowling effort earlier, slog swept the first ball off Munir and looked like taking his team home, but again there was a fightback with Munir nailing his lines in the next 3 deliveries before grabbing a sharp return chance off the drive. Uchil was distraught and the Danes ran cheering all around the ground having secured a famous victory.

Meanwhile over on field C, the home side set about extending their lead at the top of the table against a team they beat by 115 runs in their previous encounter three years ago. Canadian captain Navneet Dhaliwal won the toss, chose to bat, and set the tone with his fourth international century. Hitting 12 boundaries, he took advantage of the powerplay, driving with authority and slashing aggressively through the off side. The loss of Rayyan Pathan early did little to slow Dhaliwal’s momentum, though Matthew Spoors was thoroughly bogged down with 15 (43). When he finally went, LBW on the sweep to Mohammed Nadeem, the run rate was barely above 4 per over and it was up to Nicholas Kirton (37 off 47) to support Dhaliwal. The pair’s 93-run stand was an exercise in accumulation, with Kirton only hitting two boundaries (though he did open his arms to clear the sightscreen with a massive six). Dhaliwal pounced on the rare loose deliveries from Qatar’s spinners, sending pulls and sweeps to the rope, though both he and Kirton fell within an over of each other – first Kirton in a similar dismissal to Spoors and then Dhaliwal chipping it high to deep cover after reaching his ton. When Saad bin Zafar joined them back in the dugout almost immediately with the score on 171/5 after 37 overs, the Canadian innings risked losing steam. Ravi Singh, who has so far failed to recapture the destructive form of his first Challenge League outing (where he thumped 214 runs at an eye-watering strike rate of 163.4) again got off to a sluggish start, reaching 5 off 12 deliveries by the end of the 41st over. However, he was able to launch a characteristic late assault, ending 56* (43) – including two huge sixes slogged over midwicket.

Qatar’s doomed chase actually started brightly with the openers thumping Salman Nazar for a pair of sixes down the ground and over midwicket, but Jeremy Gordon removed Akash Babu for 11 (15) with a lifter that caught the outside edge. His partner Kamran Khan (17 off 30) and Ibrahim Zahir (34 off 38) united for a steady 47-run stand, with Ibrahim’s well-known strength on the short ball shining through as he smashed an enormous pull shot off Gordon into the trees. It was as good as things got for Qatar though, and once Ibrahim chipped a drive off Nazar to Dhaliwal at cover, the collapse was on – 9 wickets fell for just 24 runs as the Canadian bowlers ran riot. Spinners Nazar, Zafar and Harsh Thaker extracted the middle order, a sharp runout from Matthew Spoors at point (who nailed a direct hit as Mohammed Imraz took off for a single on the cut) added to the chaos, and when Jeremy Gordon returned, his pace and bounce was too much for the tailenders as he grabbed three wickets in a single over, all from uncomfortable edges. Qatar’s defeat means they slip into fourth place on the Challenge League A table – still above the relegation zone and two wins clear of fifth-placed Vanuatu, but perhaps now looking over their shoulders.


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