by Richard Lockwood
Qatar faced local rivals United Arab Emirates at Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai that would go a long way to deciding who is promoted from the Challenge Division to the Elite. It was UAE who won through in the end in an exciting low-scoring contest as Qatar had made them fight all the way. Wicket-keeper Ritik Bagchi and Bikramjeet Singh who had taken 5 for 20 in Qatar’s innings of 81 saw their side home by four wickets with an impressive partnership of 60.
Qatar won the toss and batted first but they got off to a poor start by losing the wicket of captain and best batsman Saad Khan in the first over. The left-hander pushed tentatively forward to be caught behind off the bowling of Ahsan Ali with the total on just four.
Worse was to follow as the second wicket fell in the second over as Safwan Shah was bowled by Bikramjeet Singh who otherwise had struggled with his line in an expensive over. Qatar 13 for two.
The third wicket fell in the third over, Mohammad Shimark also edging Ahsan Ali to wicket-keeper Ritik Bagchi to leave Qatar in trouble on 14 for 3.
Would the fourth over bring the fourth wicket? Waruna Kalhara replaced Bikramjeet Singh but he could not keep up UAE's record of a wicket every over.
Qatar looked to be slowly recovering with Saifur Rehman and Loganathan Lokesh batting sensibly. The score was 28 for 3 at the end of the mandatory powerplay at which point UAE turned to spin.
Left-arm spinner Shiv Mehra came on to bowl the ninth over and captain Karthik Shekar brought himself on to bowl the next and he immediately bowled Loganathan Lokesh as Qatar's fourth wicket fell on 30.
Sujit Sadagopan joined Saifur Rehman at the crease and both batsmen hit sixes off the spinners as the fifty came up in the 13th over. Sujit came down the wicket to hit straight while Saif played a pick up shot over mid-wicket. 58 for 4 after 13 at drinks.
Qatar's revival was brief as Bikramjeet Singh was brought back to immediate effect as he found a way through Saifur Rehman's defence to claim his second victim as Qatar lost their fifth wicket on 60.
Ahsan Ali also came back for a second spell and he made another breakthrough as he bowled Patum Herath for nought as the batting side lost their sixth wicket with the score on 62. Qatar were dismissed for 88 in the previous match against Bhutan and were struggling once again.
Sujit Sadagopan was taking most of the strike with number 8 Tijin Saji content to block. The scoreboard was ticking over slowly as Qatar reached 73 for six at the halfway stage.
Ahsan Ali finished his spell of 8 overs to post figures of 3 for 17. Wicket-keeper Ritik Bagchit had made a good impression behind the stumps standing up to the medium pacers and diving to take the growing number of wides. Bikramjeet managed to find the right line to bowl Sujit Sadagopan and left-hander Khalid Majid fell in the same way. Suddenly Qatar were 77 for eight. Four wickets to Bikramjeet all clean bowled.
Bikramjeet had taken a wicket with the sixth ball of his sixth over and followed with another from the first ball of his seventh, Mohammad Hemaid also bowled for nought. His hat-trick ball was kept out and the last pair suddenly tried to go for their shots but in the excitement Tijin Saji was run out by a distance as the innings ended on 81 in the 24th over.
Qatar were able to dismiss Bhutan for a total of 76 in their last match so they had the bowling firepower to win this match despite their modest total. Saad Khan opened the bowling and as he did against Bhutan he claimed a wicket in the first over as Salman Raza was caught at short extra for nought. Slow left-arm bowler Tijin Saji also took an early wicket as he dismissed Shiv Mehra lbw. We had a competitive match on our hands.
Shiv Mehra had batted through the innings against Afghanistan so UAE would need to find a new hero if they were to win this match. It wouldn't be captain Karthik Shekar who edged Saad Khan to slip to be third man out nor would it be Waruna Kalhara who was caught and bowled by Tijin Saji. UAE 9 for 4 and in real trouble.
Saad Khan was trying to inspire his team to another victory but he was bowling too short as he was no-balled for bowling a second bouncer in the over, then pulled for four by left-hander Ritik Bagchi. Left-arm spinner Tijin Saji took his third wicket as Ashley Lobo is bowled and half the side is out for 16 in just the eighth over.
Ritik Bagchi looked a well organized batsman and he hit a pair of twos to take his side to 21 for five from 10 overs at lunch. UAE needed 61 runs to win, Qatar five wickets.
Play resumed after lunch with the medium pace of Loganathan Lokesh and it wasn't long before the sixth UAE wicket fell as Abdulla Saif tried to swipe a ball that wasn't short enough and was bowled to give Tijin Saji his fourth wicket. Qatar were 22 for six and Bikramjeet Singh came to the crease and quickly reached double figures with two boundaries off leg-spinner Patum Herath.
Tijin Saji was taken off for one over and then returned but Ritik Bagchi pushed him clamly into the leg-side for two. The gaps in the field were there if you were patient. No need for big hits at this stage. Six runs from the next over from Patum Herath and the seventh-wicket partnership was already 26. 34 more to win.
Patum Herath continued despite being a little expensive in a low-scoring match. Ritik Bagchi played him well by stretching well forward.
Loganathan Lokesh was brought back as Qatar searched for a vital wicket but the pressure was mounting as he conceded three wides. 66 for 6 and only 16 to win.
Tijin Saji bowled his last over looking for his fifth wicket. Three runs off the over but no wicket and he finishes with four for 17.
Patum Herath to try again. Two to Bikramjeet Singh and a wide brings up the fifty partnership. Another single and two big hits for Ritik Bagchi and UAE are now close to victory. Another two off the last ball of the over and the scores are level. 12 runs off the over.
Bikramjeet Singh was facing Loganathan Lokesh. Two correct forward defensive shots and a nudge off the legs through square leg and the match was over. UAE had won by four wickets.
UAE had looked down and out when they were 22 for 6 but Ritik Bagchi and Bikramjeet Singh had shown the virtues of batting sensibly and playing with a straight bat. Their good techniques and calm minds during a partnership of 60 saw UAE home to a victory that keeps their hopes of promotion alive.
UAE now have a similar record to Qatar with three wins and one defeat in four matches behind Afghanistan who have won all four of their matches. Results in the last two days of the competition would decide the two sides who would be promoted to the Elite Division. UAE play Maldives on Friday, Afghanistan play Qatar on Saturday. ACC U-16 Challenge Cup 2012 Qatar v UAE
UAE WIN BY FOUR WICKETS
Qatar won the toss and chose to bat
Qatar: 81 all out off 23.5 overs (B.Singh 5-20, A.Ali 3-17)
UAE: 82 for 6 off 23.3 overs (R.Bagchi 40*; T.Saji 4-17)
Man of the match: Bikramjeet Singh Scorecard Tournament page Filed March 8th, 2012