Canada pulled off a fine win against Qatar on Sunday (22 Sept 2019) to remain top of Challenge League A with 3 wins from 3 games and a solid net run rate (NRR) of 3.008. Canada now faces Denmark (W 2, L 2, NRR + 0.64) Malaysia on Wednesday (25 Sept) at Kinrara Oval then wraps up this first of three round-robin Challenge League A tournaments by playing Singapore (W 3, L 1, NRR +0.424) at Selangor Turf Club on Thursday (26 Sept).
Canada will want to win both games to put pressure on the other five countries in League A ahead of the next tournament in this new Challenge League structure. Only the top team in League A will advance to the Cricket World Cup Playoff Qualifier that is step 2 on the path to the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
The two other games to be played in this Malaysian phase of Challenge League A are Malaysia v Vanuatu on Wednesday and Qatar v Vanuatu on Thursday. Two similar round-robin tournaments involving the same six countries are to be played at future dates before 2022.
Dhaliwal Pleased Different Players Are Scoring Runs
Canadian captain Navneet Dhaliwal spoke of the efforts of the middle order batsmen against Qatar in a post-game video interview on the ICC website. Dhaliwal highlighted the century making efforts of Nitish Kumar and Samantha Wijeyeratne against Dubai and was delighted different batsmen have made runs for Canada so far in this tournament.
Dhaliwal was impressed by Qatar’s opening bowlers against Canada, almost downplaying the solid opening platform he and Rodrigo Thomas had provided. Admittedly Canada’s opening stand of 140 from 22 overs in the previous game with Malaysia was bigger than 97 from 17.2 overs against Qatar was bigger. But a solid start of 97 provided a platform for what soon became a third wicket stand as Iqbal Hussain bowled Dhaliwal for 38 (54 balls) and two balls later had opening bat Rodrigo Thomas caught for 51 (51b) with just one run on the scoreboard.
It was the second time in this tournament that Qatar captain and medium pacer Iqbal Hussain picked up two wickets in an over. Dhaliwal had lead the charge against Malaysia in a second wicket stand of 100 in 9 overs after Thomas had been dismissed for 60 in that opening stand of 140 from 22 overs. So there was overall delight but with a slight touch of personal disappointment in Navi Dhaliwal’s post-game comments after the win against Qatar. If all eleven bat and each make 38 within the 50 overs then a team should have a defendable total at most international grounds.
The Kumar-Wijeyeratne partnership began to gain control and went on to add 230 runs from 27.4 overs. Iqbal Hussain again the successful bowler when Nitish Kumar was caught for 129 (84 balls, 12x4s, 6x6s). Srimantha Wijeyeratne went on to reach 112 (94 balls, 14x4s) before being bowled to end the 49th over and Ravinderpal Singh clipped 38* from 16 balls (3x4s, 2x6s) in the closing overs, following his 94 from 46 balls against Malaysia.
Five-for and a Century for Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar said in a post-game interview how unusual it was to bag a five-for and hit a century in one of these games. Overall his happiness was in contributing to Canada’s win and he talked of the Canadian squad’s spirit and efforts in recent months to work together and help each other. Canada had taken some good catches against Qatar, including a fine caught and bowled by Nitish to remove opening bat Saqlain Arshad for 97. Arshad’s dismissal came just one ball after Saad bin Zafar caught Zaheer Ibrahim for 8 off Nitish Kumar’s bowling. So Qatar was pulled back to 181/3 after 31.3 overs. Nitish, who ended with 5 wickets for 72 runs from 9 overs, indicated some of Canada’s fielding was not so good against Qatar, which seems to underline the awareness that in this 15-game overall Challenge League A there is little room for mistakes and losing any game. .
Canada v Denmark After Both Beat Qatar
Canada’s next game is on Wednesday at the Kinrara Oval, Kuala Lumpur against Denmark who beat Qatar by 60 runs on Monday. Danish captain Hamid Shah struck 93 from 130 balls and was joined in a third wicket stand of 151 by veteran Freddie Klokker, who hit a run-a-ball 80. Qatar used 8 bowlers against Denmark, possibly in an attempt to restore confidence after conceding 379/4 in 50 overs against Canada. Both Denmark’s wins have come when Klokker has bagged a 50+ score.
Now within the ups and downs of Associates cricket some would notice only three batsmen made double figures for Denmark. Delawar Khan made 23* from 12 balls at number 8 to join the double-figures club with Shah and Klokker. By contrast, five batters made a start notching between 18 and 23 runs when Qatar batted with only Mohammed Rizlan taking such a start to beyond fifty with 63 from 98 balls. This suggests Qatar can be a batting threat on their day.
The mix of countries in Challenge League A includes three teams from the ICC Asia Region – Malaysia, Qatar and Singapore – who play each other frequently. Indeed Malaysia and Singapore meet regularly on an annual basis beyond ICC regional competitions. There would be less working knowledge by these three countries on what to expect from the likes of Canada (Americas), Denmark (Europe) and Vanuatu (East Asia-Pacific). But all around knowledge is building during this first of three Challenge League A tournaments.
Slow-left arm bowler Nicolaj Laegsgaard bowled five maiden overs for Denmark against Qatar, beginning with a wicket maiden. He bowled three spells and was taken off after conceding 14 runs in his 9th over. Laegsgaard ended with 2 wickets for 31 runs from 9 overs. Captain Hamid Shah took 3 for 37 from 8 overs and saw Delawar Khan pick up two wickets in the 44th over to complete the win with Qatar 195 all out.
So on Wednesday Canada will certainly be seeking to dent the progress of a Denmark team that includes some younger prospects seeking to gain experience and improve, according to Danish captain Hamid Shah. Then comes Canada’s last game in this inaugural Challenge League A tournament on Thursday against Singapore.
Tim David’s Batting Power for Singapore
Tim David, a 23-year old from Western Australia, has lead the way with the bat for Singapore in this tournament. David began with 75 against Qatar, 97 against Denmark, 63 against Vanuatu and 95* against Malaysia. In late July 2019, David thumped 77 against Nepal in a T20I that Singapore won by 82 runs.
On Monday (23 Sept 2019) Malaysia scored 201 all out against Singapore. Slow-left arm spinner Vinoth Baskaran made the first break through and closed with 3 wickets for 32 from 10 overs. Leg-spinner Anantha Krishna picked up 3 for 41 from 10 overs. Virandeep Singh, as previously mentioned, lead the Malaysian batting with 73. Tim David was well supported in a 3rd wicket partnership of 138 by Navin Param’s 66.
Param returned to the Singapore team after scoring 60s in T20 games against Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia in 2017. But the Singapore innings certainly wobbled after Parm’s dismissal. Three down for 165 from 35.5 overs slid to 178/6 after 38.4 overs as Suharril Fetri picked up 3 wickets, all caught, after Param had been caught at the wicket off Dhivendran Mogan’s bowling.
Canada began with a win at the Selangor Turf Club, which will also host the Canada-Singapore match. There seemed to be a lot of ball movement in the air and off the pitch in Canada’s opening win against Vanuatu at Selangor. But Canada won and with 2 more wins from these last 2 games, Canada would be well set with 5 wins from 5 games in this Challenge League A where all teams will play 15 games. But, at present, Canada’s record is 3 wins from 3 games.
Finally, a reminder that the Wednesday start in Kuala Lumpur translates into a Tuesday evening 10 pm start in the Greater Toronto Area. The Malaysian Cricket Association has provided live streaming of all matches in Challenge League A so far, for which those looking from a long distance should be grateful.