Playing an incredibly high standard of cricket, Qatar won the 2007 ACC U-15 Challenge Cup. They beat Bhutan by eight wickets in the Final at the RBSC Polo Ground.

"We knew we had the team to win, strong in batting and bowling", said Qatar's manager Gul Mohammed Khan. "The boys are dedicated to cricket as much as their studies and they are getting the reward for much hard work," he added.

Qatar really played well, never giving Bhutan a sniff of victory. And what looked as if it might be a close match prior to the start simply went all Qatar's way once they got going. They played percentage power cricket, every action focussed on hurting the opposition. "Our plan was always to attack, first with the ball and then make sure that we didn't make it easy for the Bhutan bowlers when we batted," said Qatar's awesomely talented wicket-keeper batsman captain Taha Mohamed.

Bhutan didn't really do anything wrong, they were just outplayed by a team which was in control of the game from the moment the first two Bhutan batsmen fell in three balls in the eighth over. Kencho Norbu was the second batsman out and his dismissal was a big blow. In his innings in the semi-final he showed himself to be the rock upon which a score of substance could be built.

Much rested on Bhutan 's captain Jigme Singye but when he fell, caught and bowled to one that bounced on him, from Ali Ishtiaq, the game was firmly tilted Qatar's way. "It was the turning point," said Taha, "Ali floated one up and Jigme Singye was deceived. Once we had him we knew the game was ours."

And so it proved. From 48 for 3 in the 11th over, Bhutan lost wickets at regular intervals. Qatar's ground fielding and catching was excellent and even though they dropped three chances, the misses didn't prove costly.

Bhutan 's Kencho Norbu finds the boundary

"Our target on batting first was 140-150," said Bhutan's manager Ashish Chhetri. "If Qatar batted first our target was 200-plus," said Qatar 's manager. "Bowling first, we wanted to keep Bhutan to below 100." The difference in attitude may explain why Qatar just ran through anything Bhutan put in their way. Thinking bigger, maybe even thinking better, they had Bhutan beat even before play started.

Chinley Tenzin played very well for his 36 and as long as he was at the crease, Bhutan were in with a chance of reaching 140. Tenzin fell just after lofting Faizan Ahmed to long-on with one of the day's best strokes and with him gone, any hope of Bhutan reaching their target disappeared. His was the one significant score in Bhutan's innings.

They finished on 121, all out in the 36th over, Qatar's spinners really turning the screws on the batsmen.

Qatar 's Faizan Ahmed hits Bhutan's Jigme Singye over the top

A crowd of about 100 had gathered to watch, the majority of them Bhutanese supporters and they cheered their team on all day. Bhutan had to get early wickets if they were going to put Qatar under any pressure but Qatar 's openers were immaculate in their strokeplay. They pushed ones and twos, despatched anything loose and put on 63 for the opening wicket without any trouble before Bhutan's little off-spinner Susil Sharma got one to bounce and surprise Faizan Ahmed who was pouched by Jigme at first slip. Faisal Rauf fell to a well-worked run-out by Bhutan just two balls later and Qatar were 65 for 2 in the 20th over.

Qatar 's Faisal Rauf is run-out

It was the closest they came to victory. Bhutan fielded like tigers, throwing themselves at the ball but three chances were missed. Jigme Singye dropped Ali Ishtiaq off his own bowling with the score on 79 but really, Qatar were never troubled by Bhutan as they stroked their way to the target inside 30 overs.

Ali Ishtiaq made a breezy 31 while his captain, Taha, held firm. Taha without a helmet throughout his innings, looks a fine cricketer. Good with the gloves, judicious in his strokeplay and positive in outlook, he should be a mainstay of Qatar's cricket for some years to come. This side is packed with all-rounders, "more than half of this team will be in the Under-17 squad," says Taha confidently. He's sure to be one of them.

Qatar won the Challenge Cup with an elite performance.

ACC U-15 Challenge Cup Final
Bhutan v Qatar, RBSC Polo Ground, Bangkok
Bhutan won the toss and chose to bat
Bhutan: 121 off 35.2 overs (C. Tenzin 36; F. Ahmed 4-24, A. Ishtiaq 3-26)
Qatar: 123 for 2 after 29.2 overs (T. Mohamed 39*, A. Ishtiaq 31*)
Man of the Match: Ali Ishtiaq (Qatar)


ACC U-15 Challenge Cup 2007

Some pictures courtesy Eric Little

Filed December 16 2007