It was a historic day for Qatari cricket as their national team defeated previously unbeaten Saudi Arabia by five wickets at the David Buck Oval at Prem International School in Chiang Mai to win the ICC World Cricket League Qualifier – Asia to claim a place in cricket’s main global structure for the first time. Saudi Arabia had won their first five matches while Qatar had lost to Bahrain to be two points behind their rivals and the Saudis also had a considerable advantage on net run-rate. Qatar were able to bowl out Saudi Arabia for 94 and despite losing their first four wickets with only 24 on the board Qatar scored the runs needed in just 18.1 overs to win the match by five wickets and to win the tournament on net run-rate.
Saudi Arabia finished in second place level with Qatar on 10 points and it was Bahrain who finished third on eight points as they defeated Bhutan by 55 runs at Royals. There had been heartbreak for Thailand when they lost to Saudi Arabia on Saturday but delight today when they beat Kuwait by seven wickets at Gymkhana as Wanchana Uisuk took four wickets in the space of six balls to reduce Kuwait to 7 for 4. Kuwait finished fourth in the table on six points just ahead of hosts Thailand who also won three out of six matches and competed well in the tournament. Bhutan finished sixth and China seventh in a tournament that provided plenty of competitive cricket for the seven Asian teams.
Qatar captain Inam-ul-Haq was overcome with emotion at his team’s achievement. ‘This is a dream come true as we have been thinking for a long time about playing cricket at a higher level. Luck was on our side as Saudi Arabia chose to bat first when we wanted to bowl. This gave us a great opportunity and the team did their job.’ The captain had to retire hurt while batting when suffering from cramp and admitted that it had been difficult to keep fit in the hot weather. ‘We got the job done even though we normally play only once a week but we hope we will have more cricket in the future.’ Inam-ul-Haq has played 15 years of first-class cricket in Pakistan and also represented his country in the Under-19 World Cup at the start of his career so he is well placed to lead Qatar on their next step up the ladder in global cricket. He also paid tribute to Tamoor Sajjid who was man of the match today and to left-arm spinner Mohammad Nadeem, who was declared bowler of the tournament for his 20 wickets.
The final day of the ICC World Cricket League Qualifier - Asia arrived with the two leading teams in the competition facing each other at Prem. Saudi Arabia had the advantage in points and on net run-rate, but Qatar still had a chance of going to the top of the table with a convincing win. Saudi Arabia won the toss and batted first in the hope they could bat their rivals out of the match. Qatar were now hoping for early wickets so they could bowl out Saudi Arabia for a low score.The early advantage was with Qatar when their formidable fast bowler Awais Malik struck with the third ball of the match as he had Abdul Waheed lbw for nought. Awais is probably the best fast bowler in the tournament and had now taken 10 wickets at less than 10 runs a wicket so his opening spell could prove decisive.
Saudi Arabia lost their second with the score on 13 as Mohammad Tanveer had Saudi captain Shoaib Ali caught behind by Mohammad Rizlan for two from 16 balls as the opening bowlers were still proving a handful. Qatar remained on top against Saudi Arabia as the leaders' decision to bat first seemed to have backfired. Awais Malik claimed his second wicket as Shahbaz Rasheed was caught at second slip by Iqbal Hussain and worse was to follow for the Saudi team as opener Inayat Saeed could no longer restrain himself and was caught at mid-off by Inam-ul-Haq off Mohammad Tanveer. The advantage was with Qatar as they had Saudi Arabia in trouble at 22 for 4 after 10 overs.
The first phase of an intriguing contest was as Awais Malik and Mohammad Tanveer both completed seven over spells and claimed two wickets apiece. Qatar had a well balanced attack so they had two more medium paced bowlers to call on as Kamran Khan and Iqbal Hussain bowled in tandem against Mohammad Afzal and Mohsin Shabbir who were showing a sensible approach at the crease. Mohammad Nadeem was already the leading wicket-taker in the tournament and it didn’t take him long to make an impact with his left-arm spin. He was close to having Mohammad Afzal caught behind as he tried to cut but soon got him stumped by impressive wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizlan. He followed by getting Imran Arif caught and bowled for 5 so Saudi Arabia were still precariously placed on 62 for 6 after 25 overs. Nadeem was spinning the ball away from the right-handers at a good pace and was proving difficult to play.He took his third wicket when he also removed Omar Imtiaz caught and bowled for 5 as Omar couldn't repeat his match-winning performance against Thailand. Nadeem had 3 for 11 in 7 overs and Saudi Arabia were 74 for 7 in 33 overs. Qatar were now looking favourites to win the match and possibly even to win the tournament as captain Inam-ul-Haq claimed two wickets with his off-spin to leave Saudi Arabia on 87 for 9 after 40 overs. The captain then brought back Awais Malik to bowl at Hammad Saeed who was still effectively batting one-handed. There was suddenly more drama as Mohammad Nadeem was forced off the field with cramp after bowling one ball of his ninth over but Inam-ul-Haq took his third wicket to end the innings as Mohsin Shabbir was stumped by Mohammad Rizlan for 23. Saudi Arabia were bowled out for 94 and if Qatar were able to achieve the target in less than 25 overs it would give them the advantage on net run-rate.
With a match and a competition to win, Qatar found batting difficult themselves as medium pacer Ibrar ul Haq took a wicket in the first over as he bowled Kamran Khan for nought. Mohammad Tanveer fell in the next over lbw to leg-spinner Imran Arif for one. It was 10 for 3 in the third over when Ibrar removed Qalandar Khan lbw for one. Ibrar followed with his third wicket in a quality spell as Mohammad Rizlan was caught behind for 8. Qatar were 24 for 4 with captain Inam-ul-Haq retired hurt so they were very much on the back foot. Zaheer Ibrahim and Tamoor Sajjad are both quality players and Qatar needed a quality partnership.
The game was transformed by an exhilarating fifth wicket partnership as Zaheer hit five fours in his 25 and Qatar were soon 64 for 4 after 13 overs and well ahead on the run-rate required. There was another twist in the match as Zaheer was out bowled by Imran Arif. 30 runs to win and five wickets left.
The end came quickly thanks to Tamoor Sajjad and Dharmang Patel as Qatar shocked pre-tournament favourites Saudi Arabia by beating them by five wickets as they reached 96 for five in 18.1 overs Tamoor struck 28* with two fours and a six while Dharmang hit the winning boundary as he reached 15* with three fours. From a perilous position of 24 for 4 Qatar had thrown caution to the wind and scored another 72 runs in less than 12 overs. The speed of their victory meant that not only had Qatar won the match but they had also won the tournament as the two teams finished on 10 points with five wins and one defeat but Qatar had the advantage on net run-rate. Narrow margins for two highly competitive teams as Qatar qualified for the World Cricket League for the first time and Saudi Arabia missed out.
Thailand had come so close to beating leaders Saudi Arabia in their previous match only to lose by one wicket in the closest contest of the tournament. Wanchana Uisuk missed all the excitement at Royals with a fever but he was back with a bang against Kuwait who were looking to confirm their hold on third place at Gymkhana. Wachana took a wicket in his first over as batsman of the tournament Aamir Javed was caught behind for four and incredibly he followed with three more wickets in his second as three batsman made ducks, caught behind, lbw and caught in the gully as he was devastating with the new ball, Kuwait were 10 for 5 after 4 overs as Komron Senamontree also took a wicket with his right-arm medium pace.
Thailand continued to take wickets at Gymkhana as Kuwait collapsed to 31 for 8 in the 11th over as Sameer Gawas claimed two wickets and Vichanath Singh one. Haroon Shahid engineered a recovery as he hit three fours and a six but he became the ninth wicket to fall as he was bowled by off-spinner Ryan Raina for 25 with the score on 65. Thailand were again one wicket away from bowling out the opposition and it was Komron Senamontree took the last wicket as Kuwait were bowled out for 98.Thailand thrilled the home crowd at Gymkhana by beating highly rated Kuwait by seven wickets to record their third win in the tournament. Thailand put the disappointment of losing to Saudi Arabia behind them and they paced their chase perfectly as Shafiqul Haq made 43 from 60 balls with two fours and two sixes and Bunchuai Sombatraksa waited for the bad ball and stroked five boundaries in his 29* from 69 balls. Their composed second-wicket partnership of 54 set up a victory that again showed that Thailand could compete strongly at this level and it was fitting that one of a talented generation of young Thais was at the crease when the match was won.
Wickets also fell quickly at Royals where Bahrain were in trouble against Bhutan as Thinley Jamtsho took the first six wickets. The vastly experienced Tahir Dar again led a recovery which would eventually take his side into third place in the tournament. He scored 68 from 98 balls as he hit six fours and four sixes to guide Bahrain to a total of 154 in 43.2 overs. Bhutan’s innings started well but Tahir Dar claimed three wickets for 16 in 10 overs of left-arm spin as Bhutan were bowled out for 99. Thinley Jamtsho pushed him hard for the man of the match award with six wickets and 42. Bahrain won the match by 55 runs to claim third place and Tahir Dar’s man of the match award also gained him the prize for player of the tournament.
All seven teams had benefited greatly from more than a week of competitive cricket and all will be hoping for further opportunities but it will be champions Qatar who will be progressing into Division Five of the ICC World Cricket League.
For results, live scores and information on the ICC World Cricket League Qualifier - Asia please go to : https://www.icc-cricket.com/world-cricket-league/asia