The fourth day of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup Qualifier Division 2 – Asia saw the first teams have the chance to confirm their semi-final places. Oman faced Saudi Arabia at TCG in Bangkok with both teams having won their first two matches in Group A, while Bahrain would reach the last four if they defeated Hong Kong at Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai as Group B was also reaching a crucial stage.
Oman became the first team to reach the semi-finals as they just managed to overcome Saudi Arabia’s total of 104, needing 47.4 overs to score 105/6 as Jayaprakash Poojari scored an unbeaten 42 from 107 balls, but Bahrain missed out on qualification as they were beaten by 96 runs by Hong Kong who kept their chances of progressing to the final stages alive.
Bahrain won the toss and elected to bowl first at Gymkhana and Hong Kong made a confident start to the innings before Sajjad Khan, who had claimed five wickets in Bahrain's win over Maldives, dismissed both openers. He had Kalhan Challu who made a century against China caught behind and Munir Khan fell to a diving catch at short leg.
Hong Kong responded well as they maintained a run-rate of almost five runs per over with Aarush Bhagwat playing some lovely shots. Sajjad Khan's opening spell brought him 2 for 27 in 6 overs and his throw to the keeper also brought the run out of Adit Gorawara. Hong Kong were 98 for 3 after 20 overs.
Bhagwat reached his fifty in 48 balls as he was batting very fluently in a pressure situation before the match suddenly changed in character as Bahrain fought back brilliantly in the field.
Hong Kong suddenly collapsed to 141/9 in extraordinary circumstances as Prasanna Venkatesh took his second wicket only to sprain his ankle and have to go off. George Axtell who had struggled with wides in the match against Maldives was chosen to complete the over and immediately took a wicket. In his next over Aarush Bhagwat finally played a false shot and was caught at mid-on for 67.
Sajjad Khan was then brought back to try to bring Hong Kong's innings to a close and he immediately claimed the ninth wicket as Vikas Sharma was caught and bowled. He finished with figures of 3/41 but Hong Kong's last pair proved difficult to dislodge as they also saw off George Axtell who took 2 for 15 in 4.4 overs. Bahrain began to run out of ideas as the last pair pushed the ball around and then began to hit out as the total grew.
Hong Kong's last wicket pair Mohammad Hassan and Dhananjay Rao did a fantastic job in sharing a partnership of 64 to give their team a total of 205 that they would have been confident of defending. There was a testing start to Bahrain's innings as they lost two early wickets against the new ball. Mohammad Hassan dismissed Thirumal Varnan lbw for 2 and when Nasrulla Rana came on to bowl the fifth over he took a wicket with his first ball as he had Bahrain captain Jagan Vijaykumar caught behind for 3.
Risabh Ramesh, player of the match against China, and George Axtell were intent only on survival as Hong Kong were on top. Bahrain were 31 for 2 after 10 overs but Ramesh was out for 13 caught at mid-on off the bowling of Nasrulla Rana. Sajjad Khan went for his shots as he tried to launch a counter-attack but he was bowled to give Nasrulla his third wicket.
Hong Kong then quickly took charge of the match after Bahrain had reached 69/4 in 22 overs. George Axtell completed an eventful day by being bowled for 14 from 56 balls. Mehrab Zeb followed with a wicket next ball and Dhananjay Rao, who had batted so well at No. 11, took two wickets as Bahrain were reduced to 77/8.
Hong Kong still have a chance of reaching the semi-finals from Group B as they bowled out Bahrain for 109 in 37.3 overs to win by 96 runs with Vikas Sharma taking the last two wickets. Bahrain would have qualified for the last four had they beaten Hong Kong but they will probably now have to beat Kuwait in their final match.
Aarush Bhagwat was named Player of the Match at Gymkhana for his delightful innings of 67 but Hong Kong's last-wicket pair certainly played their part in the victory as they made vital runs to take the total beyond 200 and took three wickets between them with the ball.
Oman and Saudi Arabia looked the two strongest teams in Group A as they had both won their first two matches. Saudi Arabia’s openers started strongly with a partnership of 31 and the Saudis looked set for a useful total on 88/3 but Oman’s spinners brought a sudden end to the innings, as Kevin Kattokaran and Sanjaya Ravindra took three wickets apiece as the Saudis were dismissed for 104.
Oman were 29/3 from 12 overs at lunch so the match was in the balance and there was an exciting finish to one of the closest contests so far. Oman were reduced to 40/5 but Jayaprakash Poojari was the man for a crisis and he slowly began to turn things round after Saud had taken three wickets to put his team on top.
Oman needed 25 runs from the last 10 overs of their innings after some extremely economical bowling had restricted them to 80/6 in 40 overs. Baladraf took the sixth wicket and only conceded 13 runs in his 10 overs, while main wicket-taker Saud finished with figures of 10-4-14-3. Oman's patience eventually did pay off as Poojari saw his team home to a four-wicket win with an unbeaten 42.
In the other match in Group A, Thailand faced Bhutan at AIT, and the hosts would have been extremely disappointed when they were bowled out for just 60 in 24.4 overs but their bowlers responded superbly and Bhutan could make only 40 in 28.3 overs as Thailand gained their first win of the tournament as they triumphed by 20 runs.
It was the Thai spinners who were the match-winners. Left-arm spinner Sarawut Miliwan claimed three wickets in his first over and Payuputh Sungnard took two in his opening over as they spun a web of mystery around Bhutan’s batsmen.
The contest between China and Maldives was abandoned without a ball bowled at Prem with both sides gaining one point.
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