Singapore won a keenly contested match against Kuwait at the Army School ground in Bhaktapur to claim the ACC U-15 Elite Cup.

Watched by a crowd growing in numbers all day as the lure of two elite teams playing cricket proved irresistible, Singapore didn't really get a firm grip on the cup until the very end of the match.

Singapore's captain Rezza Gaznavi receives the cup
from Jeevan Ram Shrestha of Nepal's National Sports Council

Kuwait won the toss and batted, but were off to the most sluggish of starts. The Singapore bowling was accurate, the pitch low and two-paced and the batsmen very much had preservation on their minds. The first Kuwaiti wicket fell in the sixth over with the score on 8, the first boundary was struck two overs later. The crowd had to wait until the 22nd over to see another boundary.

In between, Singapore's bowlers were a little wayward on occasion (19 wides) but they bowled to a field and their fielders backed them up. Wickets were being taken. It may have been Kuwait's gameplan to not play loosely at the start but by the time of the 18th over with his team on just 37 for 2, the Kuwaiti coach Tahir Khan was shouting to his batsmen to play more positively.

The Kuwaiti batsmen just don't use their feet and time after time we saw the batsmen play cramped, unbalanced strokes of no power or placement. The ball hardly left the square until the final overs of their innings. Apoorv Gaur carried his bat for 43 off 114 balls as Kuwait finished on 121 for 7 off their 40 overs.

Apoorv Gaur carried his bat for Kuwait

Many were saying that it would be enough for Singapore had been bowled out by Kuwait for 119 in the group stage of the tournament, but that was when they were chasing 176. Singapore felt they could get 122 today.

But for a long time they were forced to have doubts. Jassim Aboobucker bowled his left-arm seam beautifully to bowl Singapore's Ilshaan Shekhar in the first over and then in his next had Shekhar's partner Anvesh Bulusu caught behind and next ball knocked back Yusuf Aslam's off stump with a beauty.

The crowd builds at the Bhaktapur Army School Ground

5 for 3 became 17 for 4 when Rezza Gaznavi for all his bluster spliced a dolly to silly mid-on in the sixth over. Mohit Kulkarni had taken two excellent catches during the Kuwaiti innings and he now showed that he can bat a bit too. He was solidity personified as he went forward and back, worked the ball to both sides of the wicket and made batting look easy.

Singapore lost Varun Shiuvaram in the 16th over with the score on 37. With Prasheen Param and Kulakarni Singapore got the run-rate up and were just wresting the game back their way when Kulkarni fell in the 25 th over to leave them at 65 for 6. From then on it was all Singapore.

In increasingly chilly late-afternoon conditions they pinched singles, caused fumbles, escaped with chances, used their feet and took the fight to the spinners. As even Muttiah Muralitharan would avow (he broke the record for the most wickets in Tests today) when the batsman don’t let the bowlers settle, full-tosses and long-hops can happen. And that was the difference between the sides in the end. Kuwait's batsmen made Singapore's spinners look good. Singapore's batsmen made Kuwait's spinners look worse.

Jassim Aboobucker had left the field in the 13th over with a badly-bruised instep and Kuwait's captain Sherjeel Iqbal had no one of menace to turn to. Usman Manazir hit a straight six with the score on 100 in the 32nd over and Singapore were coasting home. Kuwait tried but they just couldn't break through.

Prasheen Param swung the winning runs to the mid-wicket boundary and his team-mates rushed on to the field. It was Singapore's first major age-group tournament victory and their first ACC triumph.

Prasheen Param and Usman Manazir (helmeted) shared a match-winning 57-run partnership

"There were two teams who did not break the rules in the tournament. We came today to win the Final and we are proud to say that we did it," said Singapore's captain Rezza Gaznavi.

He's a definite U-15 star and will be one of the future along with the rest of his team-mates. Some of the Kuwaiti players were in tears at the end but they too will shine in future events. It was a final of great merit.

ACC U-15 Elite Cup Final
Kuwait v Singapore, Army School Ground
Kuwait won the toss and chose to bat
Kuwait: 121 for 7 (A. Gaur 43*; Sarangdev Krishnan 2-12)
Singapore: 122 for 6 off 34.5 overs (M. Kulkarni 24, P. Param 30*, U. Manazir 26*; J. Aboobucker 3-17)
Man of the Match: Prasheen Param (Singapore)


ACC U-15 Elite Cup 2007

Filed December 03 2007