The ICC T20 Men’s World Cup Asia A Qualifier expected to produce more shocks in coming days.
Saudi Arabia jumped to the top of the table on Monday, overcoming Kuwait by four wickets with an over to spare on the third day of the ICC Men’s T20 WC Asia A Qualifier for the 2022 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup. At the Asian Town Stadium, surprise has been the buzzword till now and it is expected to be thrown around over the next few days.
Kuwait skipper Mohammed Aslam produced a remarkable all-round display (55 runs off 41 balls and 3 for 38) but his superb individual brilliance went in vain after Saudi Arabia had a stormy start to the 147-run pursuit, with openers Sajid Cheema and Faisal Khan unleashing lusty blows to reach 92 in just 7.3 overs.
Off-break bowlers Adnan Idrees and Aslam added twists to the story, taking five wickets between them. The former removed both the openers - Khan for 37 and Cheema for 52. Aslam delivered three blows in succession to create pressure on Saudi Arabia who were five down for 136 in the 17th over.
In the 19th over, delivered by Wasantha Kumaranayaka, Zain-ul Abidin sacrificed his wicket in favour of Abdul Wahid after a misunderstanding. Wahid used the chance as he smacked a thrilling six to close out the match and ensure there would be more suspenseful moments in the days to come.
The 90-plus first-wicket stand between Cheema and Khan was the star turn of the match. The action began right from the first over when Cheema got a free hit and he blasted a Sayed Monib delivery for a huge six. He smashed another six off the next ball, and managed to milk 18 runs from the over. The big blows continued and Saudi Arabia raced to 50 the fourth over and went into the 90s in the eighth over. While Khan cracked two sixes and four boundaries in his 37 off 22, Cheema clobbered four sixes and half a dozen fours in his 30-ball cameo.
Earlier, a 68-run alliance between Aslam and Meet Bhavsar was the highlight of the Kuwait innings. Bhavsar’s 36 in 28 balls had two sixes and a four, Aslam’s 55 came off 41 balls, which included two sixes and five hits to the rope.
Saudi Arabia captain Abdul Waheed was glad with his team’s display and commented: “We’ve come here with a plan for all the teams. We’re here to do well and want to go back with the qualifying spot under our belt. We executed the plan well today, though we had hoped to restrict Kuwait under 140.
“Then the idea was to have an aggressive approach during our chase. Both Cheema and Faisal played superbly and their partnership allowed us to come home with an over to go. We’ve two more games to play and both should not be easy at all. We’re prepared and try to do our best,” added Waheed, who had 16 and was involved in a brief damage control with Usman Khalid (14).
Man of the match Cheema dedicated his first T20I half-century to his mother, besides thanking God and captain Waheed. “This is my first fifty in the T20 international cricket and I wish to dedicate it to my mother. I was given a certain task by my skipper and I’m happy that I completed it. I hope to have such knocks in the upcoming matches.”
Kuwait skipper Aslam was a bit disappointed after his fantastic performance failed to inspire his team.
“We tried our best but the strong start by Saudi Arabia upset our plan. This is our first loss and I hope this the last one. There may be more ups and downs in the tournament and we’ll try to make the best of the situation.”
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