Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 6 2011 - MALAYSIA BEATS BARREN KUWAIT

Malaysia's Suresh Navaratnam, Man of the Match with 4-15 v Kuwait
There was a late start to the biggest cricket tournament in some time for home side Malaysia. Overnight rain had led to damp conditions and play was delayed by 45 minutes. There was plenty at stake for both them and visitors Kuwait. Kuwait arrived in Malaysia as Division 8 and Division 7 champions. Malaysia, in Division 6 since 2009 are in the middle of a rebuilding phase, and need their seniors - all-rounder Suresh Navaratnam and opener Rakesh Madhavan in particular, to lead by example. Second ball of Kuwait's innings, they did: Irfan Bhatti caught by Rakesh at second slip off Suresh. Suresh bowled his opening overs well, finding bounce off a length and forcing the batsmen to play at almost every delivery. After 5 overs Kuwait, having won the toss, were 5 for 1, Hassan Ghulam doing a good job from the City End.

Hassan Ghulam claimed the second wicket, Aamir Javed playing on to one that leapt off a length and cut in. Kuwait's batsmen who normally do not like to be tied down, taking it practically as an affront to their manhood, were seemingly content to let Malaysia's opening bowlers dominate, waiting for the fire to blow out. But the fire kept on raging. Suresh Navaratnam sent left-hander Sibtain Raza's off-stump flying and in the ninth over Kuwait were 11 for 3.

Sibtain Raza was another victim of Suresh Navaratnam

Kuwait's captain Hisham Mirza strode in. He plays three forward defensives per decade. Suresh Navaratnam took a break after figures of 6-0-11-2. The Kuwait counter-attack was on. Hassan Ghulam was clipped for a couple of boundaries and medium-pacer Hammad Khan was given no respect. Saud Qamar came down the wicket to slam a short ball over midwicket for the first 6 of the innings.

Hassan Ghulam
Shahrulnizam Yusof, a quite excellent left-arm spinner, was teed over long-on by Hisham for a 6 in his first over. Kuwait, after 15 overs were 50 for 3 and getting back in the game. Much would depend on how well they played the Malaysian spinners and ran between the wickets, for Malaysia's fielding is among the best at Associate level. Kuwait at this point, changed tactics again. They are smarter than they were for sure, and Hisham and Saud Qamar aimed for dinks behind square, playing it safe, (those forward defensives of Hisham still did not make an appearance) hoping to set a platform for some later Saad Khalid devastation. Saad Khalid who has been described by a team-mate as a "one-man wrecking machine" hit 79 off 39 in his last game against Malaysia.

Suresh lets fly

Saud Qamar (35 off 72) fell exactly an hour into the 56-run partnership, caught well by Ahmad Faiz at fine leg off Eszrafiq (Eszrafiq's orange mohawk also catching the eye. As well as a doosra which none of the batsmen except Sherjeel seemed to pick.) Kuwait 72 for 4 in the 25th over. And then Hisham fell: lifting his head and thus the ball, to long-on. Kuwait 74 for 5 at the halfway stage.

Suresh Navaratnam came back on at the start of the 32nd, from the City End this time. And struck with his fourth ball, Naseer bowled for 19 off 24. Kuwait 100 for 6. And Saad Khalid was in.

And then out after 10 balls for 1. Suresh going through a gap between Saad’s bat and pad. Kuwait couldn't be in denial any longer. They were in real trouble. 108 for 7 at the second drinks break. A total big enough for their bowlers to defend still a long way away. With ten overs to go, Kuwait were 122 for 7. ACC U-19 Challenge Player of the Tournament Sherjeel Tahir massaged the tail and Kuwait inched along to 149 when he was the ninth man out. Malaysia had been hitting the wickets with throws all day and made the last one count - Abdullah Akhundzada run out by Suhan Kumar. Kuwait finished on 151 off 46.1 overs.

A terrific performance by Malaysia in the field, Suresh Navaratnam, moving the ball both ways and finding steep bounce at times, to the fore. However they do lack one more attacking bowler - Kuwait's last three wickets were able to survive 73 deliveries.

Malaysia went in to lunch with the win in their grasp.

Malaysia’s situation and that of every other team in the competition has been helped by WCL Division 7's Player of the Tournament left-arm seamer Mohammad Murad's last-minute withdrawal from the competition because of injury. Saad Khalid and Mohammad Naseer did their best with the new ball to make up for the loss of Murad. Ironically it was the rankest of skiddy long hops from leg-spinner Akhunzada, who came on for the seventh over, that accounted for Rosmanizam. Malaysia 6 for 1. He almost had Ahmed Faiz next ball too, and with four men around the bat, the game had some spice to it.

Saad Khalid ran in hard, lithe but not as lethal as he'd like. Akhunzada at the other end, bowled the occasional danger ball, but also some very hittable ones. Off-spinner Sibtain Raza came on at the Mines End after four Saad Khalid overs and bowled Rakesh, who had never looked comfortable today, with his fifth delivery. Malaysia 34 for 2 in the ninth, needing another 118 at less than three an over. If it took them as many as 50 overs though, they'd lose. There'd be too many wicket-taking balls. A threat of rain hung in the air too. Only positivity to match Kuwait's positivity would prevail. When's spin on at both ends and you must score runs, you have to use your feet and not be tied down. Plus the loose ball at this level is never too far away. Suhan Kumar eased the pressure with his first boundary to move the score up to 45 for 2 in the 14th over. Anything his captain could do, Ahmed Faiz could do too. Boundaries in two consecutive overs took him to 25* and Malaysia to 59 for 2 in the 16th over. By the 19th over, Malaysia already had more than half the runs required.

Booming thunder and jagged lightning in the 21st over, with Malaysia well ahead of any Duckworth/Lewis equation. They would be home and dry no matter what happened. Moments after they came off it bucketed down, and there could be no prospect of further play.

"We've prepared well for this and are at our strongest in all departments, especially fielding," said winning captain Suhan Kumar while the rain pelted down afterwards. "I was surprised Kuwait chose to bat, conditions were sticky first thing and any side would have found it difficult. We still had to bowl well though, and we did, especially Suresh and then later our spinners did a good job."

Malaysia play Nigeria next, who lost to Fiji today and Kuwait take on Jersey who lost to Guernsey. Much to play for.

Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 6 2011
Malaysia v Kuwait at Selangor Turf Club
Kuwait won the toss and chose to bat
Kuwait: 151 all out off 46.1 overs (S.Qamar 35; S.Navaratnam 4-15)
Malaysia: 88 for 2 off 21 overs (Match called off - rain)
Man of the Match: Suresh Navaratnam (Malaysia)

Pictures: Peter Lim © ICC

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Filed September 17th, 2011