Challenge League Day 8: Qatar hold on, Singapore finish strong

Qatar (181/9 in 50 overs; Imraz 47*, Syahadat 3/24) defeated Malaysia (177 in 47.5 overs; Azim 71*, Tanveer 3/14) by 4 runs.

Vanuatu (111 in 29.4 overs; Allan 29, Prakash 3/18) lost to Singapore (113/4 in 14.2 overs; Paraam 40*, Nalisa 2/18) by 6 wickets with 214 balls remaining.

Malaysia conjured a brilliant rearguard effort to get agonisingly close to Qatar in a low-scoring thriller, while Singapore cruised to victory as Vanuatu disappointed again in their final outing on the final day’s play at the Canada leg of Challenge League A.

On Maple Leaf Cricket Club’s ground A, Malaysia and Qatar played out a classic, with the winless Malaysians lifting as they tried to battle their way out of the bottom two places and potential relegation. Qatar opted to bat at the toss, and were soon in trouble with Muhammad Wafiq (1/34 off 8) and Syed Aziz (1/20 off 10) removing Kamran Khan and Imal Liyanage with the score on 17. Zaheer Ibrahim (25 off 32) looked fluent on the drive before edging one outside off to wicketkeeper Ainool Hafizs. The match settled into a dour arm wrestle on a tired pitch, with skipper Mohammed Rizlan (46 off 79) and Mohammed Imraz (47* off 77) providing the bulk of the resistance for Qatar. Malaysia’s bowling was parsimonious, with Aziz, Muhamad Syahadat (3/24 off 9) and Anwar Rahman (2/20 off 7) all going at less than 3 per over, and Qatar crawled to 181/9 in their 50 overs. 

Malaysia’s response was disastrous, with Muhammad Murad trapping Aziz LBW and having Ahmed Faiz caught on the pull on the first over. Virandeep Singh (25 off 26) briefly threatened as he cut effectively and manipulated the field, but when he was pinned LBW by Mohammed Nadeem, pushing forward on a defensive shot, Malaysia collapsed. They lost 6/18 to go from 41/2 to 59/8, and the game looked like a formality.

But Amir Azim (70* off 103) had other ideas, rallying his bowler colleagues for a pair of remarkable partnerships – first Pavandeep Singh with 9 (33) displayed a masterclass in tailend blocking while Azim pinched every single available, then when he was runout after a mixup with the score on 113/9, Malaysia again looked done for. Anwar Rahman, however, proved an able ally, blocking effectively but also able to bunt singles where on offer while Azim slapped boundaries through mid-wicket and cover-point to keep the score inching along. With the equation tightening and a remarkable victory in sight for Malaysia, Qatar’s frustration was palpable – Azim and Rahman were able to capitalise on several lapses in the field to pinch extra runs and keep hope alive. But with just 4 runs to defend, Muhammad Murad returned and finally got his line right to pin Rahman in front LBW. The win was crucial for Qatar as it lifted them out of immediate danger of slipping into the bottom two places on the table.

Elsewhere in the relegation zone, and playing on field C, Vanuatu’s Andrew Mansale won his 4th toss of the tournament. He chose to bat for the first time, but their fortunes barely improved with a procession of wickets on either side of a watchful 46-run partnership between Jarryd Allan (29 off 53) and Jamal Vira (26 off 42). It was especially frustrating for a team that has displayed glimpses of talent, but lacked the discipline necessary to compete – of the 10 wickets to fall, 8 (including the first 5) were either caught by the wicketkeeper or at slip. Opening seamer Aryaman Uchil grabbed the top 3; Ronald Tari started the rot, driving at one outside off and edging to slip for a duck, while his opening partner Josh Rasu (11 off 15) danced down and edged a heave across the line, while Junior Kaltapau prodded limply to give Singapore keeper Manpreet Singh his second catch.

Andre Mansale briefly resisted with 17 (20) as he hit a pair of nice cut shots and huge six down the ground, but he then guided a late cut straight to Arjun Mutreja at first slip, who juggled before finally clinging on. This brought Vira and Allan to the crease at 40/4, and they proved that with a little discipline batting was not difficult.

For 12 overs they looked comfortable as they clipped runs through the gaps in the on side, bunted singles through the off, and both caused lost balls – Vira as he stepped down and thumped Akshay Puri over the sighscreen, and Allen with a cover drive into the bushes outside the boundary. Suddenly there was a partnership on, and the top order’s mistakes looked especially unnecessary. Unfortunately once Vira went with the score on 86, limply hanging his bat out for a simple caught behind, the procession continued and Vanuatu folded for 111. Allan was the victim of the strangest dismissal at the tournament, bowled as he completely lost track of a full one that thudded off his pads and onto the stumps.

With only 111 on the board, Vanuatu needed to bowl well, but unfortunately their spinners dropped too short too often, allowing Singapore to free their arms early. Chasing a quick win and net run rate boost they lost 4 wickets, with Josh Rasu (2/56 off 7) and Williamsing Nalisa (2/18 off 2.2) both having a pair caught on aggressive shots, but the result was never really in doubt and Singapore leapfrogged Denmark to reclaim second place on the ladder behind Canada.

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