Oman won the ACC U-15 Challenge Cup, defeating Bhutan by 8 wickets at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club Polo Grounds.

"The boys played very well and thoroughly deserved their victory. They are the future of cricket in Oman and with this victory will go on to even greater things," said Oman Manager Madhu Sampat.

The start of the match was delayed by half an hour because of wet patches on the square due to morning dew. Bhutan chose to bat, hoping for a big enough score to defend in the afternoon. On a drying wicket, their spinners could be particularly effective. But 'no plan survives contact with the enemy.'

Tahar Shah looking to dismiss Sanjeev Gurung just the same way as in Chiang Mai a week earlier, opened with a bouncer which the startled Sanjeev Gurung spooned just behind square with no fielder nearby. Oman were obviously up for it from the start, and apart from the opening ball lapse, had a well-worked out strategy for the batsmen. Both Shah and Karthik kept the ball up to the bat and had Bhutan's batsmen on the defensive from the outset. Bhutan were 9 for 0 after 5 overs.

Left-arm spinner Nikhil Xavier came on in the seventh over. With his second ball he had Thinley Wangchuk pinned on the back-foot, for 2 off 19 balls. Abu Saud, Oman's second left-arm spinner came on at the other end.

Bhutan 's first boundary, hit by Sanjeev Gurung only came in the 11th over. Gurung looked to be getting the measure of the spinners at this stage – but going back is fatal on this wicket as Kencho Norbu found, when Nikhil bowled him shin-high to the stumps. 29 for 2 off 12.3.

Nikhil Xavier bowls a chinaman

The two left-arm spinners made an ideal combination- Xavier landing on a teasing length with each delivery, with the occasional 'chinaman' turned the ball in fast and low. Bhutan's batsmen, try as they might, were unable to get any purchase on their shots. The situation called out for one batsman, any batsman to play in a manner to upset Xavier's metronomic rhythm but none could do so. "He's a coach's favourite," said Oman's coach Rajinder Singh.

From the other end, Abu Saud bowled with plenty of variation, "too much sometimes!" says his coach. Slower in the air than Xavier, with more flight, Saud's a crafty operator. He'd taken 3 for 1 in Chiang Mai against Bhutan and "it's his ball that floats up, lands on a length and draws you into the drive that's the tricky ball," says Bhutan's coach Damber Singh Gurung, "it zips through keeps low and can get you between bat and pad as you drive."

It was just such a ball that did for Bhutan's best batsman, Jigme Singye. He had made just 2 and with his fall, the gates were open. From 34 for 4 in the 20 th over, Bhutan just faded away.

Oman's coach Rajinder Singh lets his captain know how Bhutan could have been dismissed for even less
Rajinder Singh briefs his opening batsmen

Oman's spinners pecked at the batsmen, their infielders were outstanding and batsman after batsman was pinned on the crease, leg-before or bowled. On the rare occasions they tried anything aggressive, they were pouched inside the circle. Just one more four was struck by Bhutan as they finished on 67 after 33.4 overs

When they played in Chiang Mai, Bhutan had bowled Oman out for 106 (including 30 extras). Bhutan are a far stronger bowling side than batting, but surely 67 wasn't enough to defend.

Initially, however, bar a couple of flowing off-drives from the tall Suneet Fernandes, Oman's batsmen were unable to impose themselves against Bhutan's impressive new-ball bowlers. But they did enough. The good balls were kept out. Half of Oman's first 20 runs came from extras.

Fernandes, after hitting the shot of the day through mid-off then miscued an on-drive just out of reach of the one leg-side fielder in front of square and with that escape, Oman's grip on the cup tightened.

Akhilesh Iyer was dropped at square-leg pulling a full-toss from Jigme Singye, to compound Bhutan's woes. Three balls later Fernandes was out, caught at point. But it was too late. Oman's captain Luvieen Alva came in and made batting look easy until he spooned a googly back to Singye with the score on 51.

Abu Saud hits the winning runs
Bhutan presented with the Runners-up Trophy by CAT Chairman Ravi Sehgal

Akhilesh Iyer was then dropped three balls later by the wicket-keeper Kencho Norbu off Thinley – by his standards an incredible miss. Abu Saud, collar-up and looking every inch the batsman, hit two fours off his first three balls to take Oman to within six of victory. The scores were tied when Saud slammed a chance back to Singye but even if it had stuck Oman were always going to win. They did, next ball.

Bhutan v Oman at RBSC Polo Ground
Bhutan : 67 off 33.4 overs (A.Saud 3-12, K. Pandya 3-12)
Oman : 71 for 2 off 15.4 overs

Man of the Match: Abu Saud (Oman)


Bhutan 's manager Jigme Norbu receives the
Tournament Spirit of Cricket Award from
the ACC Chief Executive
Luvieen Alva receives the ACC U-15 Challenge Cup from the ACC Chief Executive

Filed December 23 2006