By Arjun Menon, SCA

Singapore recovered from a shaky performance against the Saudis to brush aside Hong Kong in the semi final of the ACC U16 Trophy. Once again it was the batting of Singapore that put them in a strong position as the usual suspects in Rajgopal and Kulkarni displayed some sensible and sturdy batting to rack up a total of 230-9 off their allotted 40 overs. Singapore then took the field and cleaned up the Hong Kong batsmen for a total of 97 winning by 133 runs.

The toss was an important one to win and Singapore captain Sivaram did not disappoint his troops as he did just that and elected to bat. The influential skipper was a doubt for this match as he had succumbed to a viral flu the day before and after spending half a day at a private clinic being prodded and poked, found the strength to put his hand up to play in the semis.

Singapore sent in their opening pair of Shekhar and Seshadri in the hope that another onslaught in the powerplay overs would put Singapore in the driving seat. However, Shekhar who had been so destructive in the previous matches held back on a regulation front foot drive and popped up a catch to opening bowler Simandeep Singh. Seshadri was joined by Rajgopal in the middle and Seshadri decided to show that he was capable of by freeing his arms and scored a quickfire 37 before taking it a bit too far and getting stumped for his efforts, ending a 72 run partnership.

Rajgopal was then most settled in the middle and along with Sivaram started building a good partnership before the skipper was run out on a risky single. Joined by the dogged Kulkarni, Rajgopal reached his third half century until he himself was run out for 68, when a century looked to be on offer. Kulkarni himself took to the bowling attack and scored 39 off 38 balls before being caught at deep mid on. Playing to a plan of making sure that all 40 overs were played, the tail ensured that Singapore ended their innings at 230-9.

Hong Kong started their innings in a subdued and cautious fashion in trying not to lose wickets and to take the sting out of a pumped up Singapore opening attack. Bowling with good pace, Shekhar soon struck in the 3rd over, removing Menon LBW for naught. The wayward Shekhar who ended up bowling 13 wides in all, was still able to send the stumps of the diminutive Hong Kong opener, Rath, cart-wheeling after firing in a sharp yorker in the 5th over.

Kinchit Shah, who made his way in at number 3 for Hong Kong then decided to dig in and with Hong Kong keeper Khatri, provided resistance to the Singapore bowling. The highlight of Shah’s innings being two glorious straight drives for four off the tall off spinner, Ahuja’s first two balls. The pair put on 48 runs until Khatri thought he had dispatched a ankle high full toss off Ahuja for four, only to be caught magnificently by the Singapore skipper at mid off. 62-3 and Hong Kong still felt that with Shah still present at the crease, anything was possible. This was soon diminished when Shah played a loose cut shot off Ahuja to be caught at cover by Kulkarni for a staunch 23 off 69 balls.

At 69-4, Singapore now smelt blood and apart from a short stint of heavy hitting from the big frame of Amandeep Singh, the pressure was too much and with a flurry of run outs and mistimed shots, Hong Kong were soon cleaned up for 97 runs in the 30th over and Ahuja again proving to be a genuine wicket taker with 3-21. Singapore winning the match by 133 runs and Rajgopal earning his second man of the match award for his 68.

In the other semi final, Nepal won their match by 32 runs, ending Malaysia’s run in the ACC Trophy. This now sets up a mouthwatering final between two sides that have been unbeaten in their four matches so far and with both sides containing a host of run scorers and wicket takers, this final promises to be anything but a one sided affair. The match will be played at the T.U Ground in Kirtipur on the 16th of March.

Brief scores – Singapore beat Hong Kong by 133 runs.
Singapore 230-9 (Rajgopal 68, Kulkarni 39, A.Singh 3-49)
Hong Kong 97 all out ( Shah 23, Khatri 15, Ahuja 3-21)

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Filed March 15th, 2010