By Richard Lockwood, Cricket Association of Thailand

Singapore faced Qatar at Traidhos Oval in the first semi-final of the ACC Trophy Challenge and despite losing the toss and being asked to bat first in testing conditions showed enough application and class with the bat to post a total of 262 for seven which they successfully defended to win by 39 runs to reach the final and regain a place in the Elite Division.

Singapore’s two openers have impressed so far in the competition so it was a surprise when Chetan Suryawanshi was bowled by the first ball he faced from Awais Malik as Singapore lost their first wicket with the score on just seven.

Better was to follow for underdogs Qatar as Arjun Mutreja was also bowled by Awais Malik to give the fast bowler his tenth wicket of the tournament as Singapore were reduced to 13 for two. The pressure looked to be getting to the favourites as Rezza Gaznavi was run out attempting a quick single after being hit on the pad to leave the total on 18 for three.

Awais Malik was taken off after a spell of 4-0-15-2 as Qatar turned to spin with the introduction of Zaheeruddin Ibrahim who had taken three wickets in the previous match against Bahrain.

Qatar looked much happier today after having a day to forget against Bahrain when they had to change wicket-keeper three times. Sheikh Raheel was missing after suffering a broken nose while batting against Bahrain and Rassal Parambu was keeping wicket but he missed a difficult stumping chance as Anish Param was lured out of his crease by Zaheeruddin Ibrahim. The dangerous Awais Malik came back after changing ends and Singapore reached 45 for 3 after 15 overs.

Qatar’s captain decided his best chance still lay with seam as he turned to Mohammad Rizlan who had been one of the emergency wicket-keepers against Bahrain and he started with a maiden. It was then Faisal Noor’s turn to bowl his medium pace and he had also had a brief spell behind the stumps the previous day.

Singapore were concentrating on rebuilding their innings as Qatar continued to search for another wicket. The tall and stylish Anish Param was batting with portly left-hander Munish Arora, while Qamar Sadiq had been given the ball to bowl his slow left-arm spin.

Singapore had looked in trouble at 18 for three but Anish Param and Munish Arora had consolidated well, bringing up the fifty partnership for the fourth wicket. Omran Hussain was the eighth Qatar bowler used and all the bowling changes finally paid dividend as Munish Arora was caught at point for 25 made from 50 balls.

Batsmen have not been able to take full advantage of free hits in this competition so far but Anish Param punished Qamar Sadiq with a mighty straight six but he was out in the next over caught behind for 41 as Omran Hussain took his second wicket. Singapore were in trouble again at 95 for 5 in the 26th over.

Qatar lost in the semi-final the last time the ACC Trophy Challenge was contested but they could sense an opportunity to reach the final this time and their two premier bowlers Zaheeruddin Ibrahim and Awais Malik were both brought back into the attack. Singapore’s 100 came up in the 28th over with Kshitij Shinde and Christopher Janik at the crease.

Kshitij Shinde scored a quickfire fifty against Thailand but he would have to take his time today but Singapore still had the batting powerplay to take which would give him the opportunity to show off his strokeplay.

The scorers were running out of room on their scoresheets as Imran Ashraf became the ninth bowler ried and Singapore were 135 for 5 after 35 overs when the batting powerplay was taken.

The fifty partnership for the sixth wicket came up as Kshitij Shinde hit a pair of boundaries and Christopher Janik was proving adept at giving his partner the strike. A single off the first ball of the next over allowed Shinde to hit two more fours to take him to 49 and he reached his second fifty of the tournament with a single while Janik weighed in with a four and a three.

42 runs came from the five powerplay overs and Awais Malik completed his 10 overs with two for 49 and Singapore were now on course for a substantial total. Qatar were tiring fast and captain Parvez Khan dropped a simple chance offered by Kshitij Shinde.

The sixth wicket partnership ended two short of the hundred mark as Christopher Janik was caught by Omran Hussain off Zaheeruddin Ibrahim for a well-made 38 but Singapore reached the 200 mark in the 43rd over and had the power to add with Kshitij Shinde still at the crease

Singapore have already shown they had a strong batting line-up and Kshitij Shinde was now rotating the strike so captain Saad Janjua could open his shoulders. The 250 came up in the 49th over but Shinde’s superb innings ended on 86 made from 77 balls with 11 fours and a six.

Singapore’s final total was 262 for seven with 85 coming from the last 10 overs. This was an impressive performance given they had lost the toss and been reduced to 18 for three and 95 for five. Qatar would have hoped for a lower target but they still had a chance if they batted at their best in good conditions.

Qatar lost a wicket in the first over without a run on the bard when Jahangir Muhammad was caught behind by Kshitij Shinde off the bowling of Pramodh Raja. He was troubling the Qatar batsmen with some late movement but the total was progressing thanks to one set of four overthrows and a pair of boundaries to Muhammad Rizlan.

We looked to be in for an exciting match as the runs continued to flow from the bats of Rusharat Ali and Muhammad Rizlan who hit four fours in four consecutive balls between them split between two overs. The fifty came up in the tenth over and Qatar had started positively with the score on 59 for one after the mandatory powerplay which saw a total of 10 boundaries.

Singapore turned to spin in the 11th over with the introduction of the off-spin of Christopher Janik and he took a wicket with his second ball as Rizlan was well caught by the substitute fielder on the mid-wicket boundary after he had appeared to middle a sweep shot.
Spin was on at both ends first with Abhiraj Singh’s slow left-arm and then with opening bowler Pramodh Raja turning his hand to off-spin. Chetan Suryawanshi had already bowled two overs of medium pace but returned to his primary role as wicket-keeper and immediately looked the part. Qatar were 85 for 2 after 17 overs with the match in the balance.

Qamar Sadiq joined Rusharat Ali at the crease and although they were not rotating the strike as often as they should against the spinners they were certainly taking advantage of the occasional bad ball.

The hundred came up in the 22nd over as Christopher Janik conceded a rare single but Qatar’s progress suddenly stalled as Qamar Sadiq was run out as he wanted a second run but was sent back by his partner.

At the halfway stage Qatar were 109 for 3 which was 18 runs ahead on comparison but with left-arm spinners Abhiraj Singh and Anish Param bowling tightly in tandem it was easy to get the impression that they were falling behind the rate.

Opener Rusharat Ali reached his fifty from 69 balls with six fours and a six and after 30 overs Qatar were 123 for three, requiring a further 140 runs in 20 overs for victory.

Only 26 runs had come in the previous 10 overs and Rusharat Ali was bowled by Abhiraj Singh for 55 as the pressure exerted by the spinners finally told but at least Imran Ashraf who had top scored against Bahrain was now at the crease.

Faisal Noor was run out as Qatar lost their fifth wicket on 144 but Imran Ashraf hit a big six over the scorers’ wooden cabana to bring up the 150 and Qatar needed more of the same now the batting powerplay was being taken.

Imran Ashraf’s entertaining cameo came to an end at 159 for six when he was caught at mid on by Pramodh Raja off Amjad Mahboob who had been brought back to bowl during the powerplay and Qatar’s hopes of reaching the final looked to be receding.

Qatar were 185 for six after 40 overs with 32 runs being scored in the powerplay. They needed 78 more to win from the last 10 overs with Awais Malik and Zaheeruddin Ibrahim at the crease. The two big-hitters had a lot to do.

Awais Malik was caught at long off but Qatar’s 200 came up in the 43rd over and the match could have still gone to the wire with Rassal Parambu joining Zaheeruddin Ibrahim. Parambu hit a glorious boundary through mid-wicket and dropped at mid on but was caught behind down the leg-side to leave Qatar on 214-8 from 44 overs.

They lost their ninth wicket on 216 when Zaheeruddin was also caught behind to give Amjad Mahboob his third wicket of an impressive spell. The last pair were at the wicket with 47 needed off the last five overs.

Omran Hussain was last man out as he was bowled by Saad Janjua and Qatar were dismissed for 223 in 46 overs. Qatar have missed out on promotion in the semi-finals again but Singapore have regained their place among the Elite with their victory by 39 runs. They will now be looking to lift the trophy in Thursday’s final when they play the winners of the second semi-final between Thailand and Bahrain.

ACC Challenge Trophy 2012, Day 5
Semi Final 1: Singapore v Qatar at Prem Oval
Qatar won the toss and elected to field
Singapore: 262 for 7 off 50 overs (K.Shinde 86, C.Janik 38, S.K.Janjua 32*; O.Hussain 3-34)
Qatar: 223 off 46 overs (R.Ali 55, M.Rizlan 34, Z.Ibrahim 30; A.Mahmood 3-31)
Man of the Match: Kshitij Shinde (Singapore)

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Filed December 11th, 2012