By Richard Lockwood, Cricket Association of Thailand

Bahrain defeated Qatar by six wickets to decide the winners of Group B in the ACC Trophy Challenge in what was the most competitive match of the tournament so far. Bahrain gained the victory that would bring them a semi-final against Thailand thanks to a well-controlled chase of Qatar’s total of 234 for six. Qatar, who lost the toss and were forced to bat first, have the consolation of a semi-final against Singapore.

There was a lively start to the match at Traidhos Oval after the start was delayed by 45 minutes after a cold night had produced a heavy dew, as both opening bowlers troubled the Qatar batsmen with some sharp bounce. Sheikh Raheel was hit in the face by the second ball of the second over and retired hurt after suffering a broken nose, and is staying overnight in hospital.

Qatar were undaunted as though balls short of a length were proving testing, those pitched up were being crashed to the boundary but they lost their first wicket on 25 as Muhammad Jahangir was caught behind off the bowling of Sameer Yousuf.

Muhammad Rizlan was lucky when he miscued to mid on only for a simple catch to be dropped but the Qatar batsmen continued to go for their shots with the fifty coming up in the 10th over.

Spinners were soon bowling in tandem as Muhammad Rizlan and Qamar Sadiq built a good foundation for Qatar, raising the fifty partnership for the second-wicket just before drinks as the total reached 75 for one after 16 overs.

Muhammad Rizlan made the most of the dropped catch as he reached his 50 from 51 balls with 10 fours but he was dismissed shortly afterwards, caught at deep mid-wicket to make the score 93 for two. The Bahrain spinners were being to slow the scoring rate with the new batsmen at the crease as the score moved on to 99 for 2 at the halfway stage.

The pressure exerted by the Bahrain spinners finally told with Qamar Saeed caught at extra-cover as Shahzad Siddique took his second wicket. The left-handed Saeed had faced no fewer than 61 dot balls in his innings of 39 runs. Two maiden overs followed the loss of the third wicket as off-spinner Shahzad Siddique finished an excellent spell of 10-2-27-2.

The batting powerplay was delayed until the 36th over and opening bowler Sameer Yousuf was recalled to the attack. The extra pace allowed Imran Ashraf to hit two boundaries and Bahrain soon turned back to spin.

Number six Awais Malik wears 66 on his back and it is easy to see why as he hit his second six as the five powerplay overs brought 32. He tried to hit another six over the scoreboard only to be caught at deep mid-wicket and although wickets continued to fall at the other end Imran Ashraf reached his fifty from 69 balls. With five overs to go Qatar were 188 for 6.

Bahrain had hoped to restrict Qatar to a total close to 200 but tail-ender Zaheeruddin Ibrahim hit lustily and Imran Ashraf finished on 71 as 46 runs came in the last five overs as Qatar’s final total reached 234 for six in 50 overs.

Bahrain went for their shots from the off but it was an approach filled with danger and Abdul Wahab died by the sword as he was well caught in front of the sightscreen as he looked to hit a straight six. Bahrain were 14 for one after 3 overs.

Awais Malik has impressed in the tournament so far picking up two man of the match awards but Bahrain are a stronger batting side than either China or Myanmar and number three Asif Siddique hit him for two boundaries in two balls as Bahrain reached 41 for one in 8 overs. A pair of boundaries to opener Ashraf Mughal in the next over brought up Bahrain’s 50 and Qatar made their first bowling change as Rusharat Ali bowled the tenth over.

Qatar, who did not enjoy the best of luck, then suffered their second injury of the day and they lost the services of their second wicket-keeper. Original wicket-keeper Sheikh Raheel had already suffered a broken nose while batting and his replacement behind the stumps Muhammad Rizlan now suffered a hand injury. Faisal Noor became their third choice keeper for the day.

Two substitutes were on the field for Qatar and one of them Naeem Bhatti was in the game as he took a catch at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Asif Siddique for 23. Bahrain were 63 for two after 13 overs.

The wicket-keeper was again changed at drinks with Mohammad Rizlan coming back and Bahrain were looking well-placed at 93 for two after 20 overs with captain Tahir Dar looking impressive.

Ashraf Mugal was playing the sheet anchor role and Tahir Dar quickly hit seven fours as the pair posted a fifty partnership for the third wicket and Bahrain were in control on 122 for 2 in 23 overs.

Qatar needed wickets if they are to stay in the match so match-winner Awais Malik was re-introduced and at least he stemmed the flow of runs but at the half-way stage Bahrain were ahead of the rate at 125 for 2.

Ashraf Mughal played a textbook pull for four and Tahir Dar came down the wicket to hit a straight six as Qatar now required less than 100 to win. The captain then hit the ball straight into cover’s hands only to be dropped.

The singles were coming easily and the bad balls were going for four which was a perfect combination for Bahrain. Ashraf Mughal reached his fifty from 71 balls with a lofted drive to the cover boundary but captain Tahir Dar was deceived by Zaheeruddin Ibrahim to be bowled for a cultured 48 as the third wicket fell at156 in the 32nd over.

Imran Sajjad was the fourth man out for Bahrain as the impressive Zaheeruddin claimed his third victim with the score on 172 and so the match was still in the balance, but Ashraf Mughal was content to play him out and he was given sensible support by Shahzad Siddique.

Ashraf Mughal played a classic opener’s innings by pushing the singles whenever he could and hitting the bad balls to the boundary almost without fail. Qatar heads began to drop as they realized the match was slipping away and as darkness began to fall Bahrain gained victory by six wickets with more than seven overs to spare.

Ashraf Mughal was unbeaten on 89 from 112 balls after batting in a calm and efficient manner for over three hours and Shahzad Siddique helped him in a match-winning partnership of 63.

Qatar now face Singapore in the first semi-final and Bahrain meet Thailand in the second. Both Bahrain and Qatar had showed they had some quality players and both are still more than capable of reaching the final.

ACC Trophy Challenge 2012, Day 4
Bahrain v Qatar at Prem Oval
Bahrain won the toss and elected to field
Qatar: 234 for 6 off 50 overs ( M.Rizlan 50, Q.Sadiq 39, I. Ashraf 72*)
Bahrain: 235 for 4 off 42.5 (A. Mughal 89*, Tahir Dar 48*; Z. Ibrahim 3-36)
Man of the Match: Ashraf Mughal (Bahrain)

Tournament Page

Filed December 10th, 2012