Bahrain won the 2006 ACC Middle East Cup thanks to a stunning individual performance from Man of the Tournament Asgher Bajwa who led his team to an exciting three-wicket victory over Afghanistan.

Match Report courtesy of Kuwait Cricket Association

Kuwait - February 24, 2006: A fantastic all round performance by Asgher Bajwa of Bahrain dashed Afghanistan’s hopes of winning the prestigious ACC Middle East Cup 2006, played at KOC Ahmadi ground. In a tense and exciting final, both the teams were evenly matched throughout but ultimately experience prevailed over the highly talented Afghanistan outfit and Bahrain won the match by 3 wickets.

Part of the crowd, estimated at 10,000 packing Ahmadi

The Final was witnessed by a jam-packed crowd crammed into Ahmadi to see minnows Afghanistan play their fancied rivals and the spectators, in a party mood from the very first over cheered and encouraged the teams throughout the match.

Bahrain won the toss and decided to field first. Karim Sadiq & Abdul Nassar opened the innings for Afghanistan and displayed some attacking cricket. Just as this pair was looking dangerous, Karim holed out to Fahd Sadiq of Rizwan for 15 runs. The stylish right-handed batsman Nowroz Mangal then joined Abdul Nassar and both launched into the attack, Abdul Nassar smacking Rizwan back over his head and then carving him twice to the cover boundary for fours. Nowroz, meanwhile punched Fahd Sadiq through backward point and then twice cover drove Qamar Saeed for fours to send the partisan crowd into raptures.

Asgher Bajwa moving
towards glory

Asgher Bajwa, was brought on from the South End and terminated the innings of Navroz Mangal ( 19 runs) with a brute of a ball which turned sharply after pitching to uproot the off stump. Bahrain’s skipper Yasser Sadeq introduced a double spin attack and this produced the much needed breakthrough for Bahrain as Abdul Nassar attempting to pull a short delivery of Asharaf Baig, drove it towards Asgher Bajwa who took an absolute blinder. Abdul Nassar had scored a cracking 49 runs with one 6 and six 4s.

Afghan skipper Raees Ahmadzi and Noor Ali were then engaged in a good partnership of 73 runs. Both were cautious in playing and steadily built up the total by running some unbelievable singles and converting them into twos whenever possible until Tahir Dar foxed Noor Ali to pull one to Akmal for a well made 31 runs. The Bahraini spinners then ran through the tail, dismissing Afghanistan for 194 runs. Raees Ahmadzi scored a valuable 36 runs for Afghanistan.

Bowling honours for Bahrain were shared by Qamar Saeed (3-34), Asgher Bajwa (3-19), while Rizwan (1-31), Asharaf Baig (1-29) and Tahir Dar (1-32) supported them well.

Chasing a moderate target of 194, Bahrain were soon in trouble as they lost Rizwan who went for a needless single to be run out. Afghanistan’s opening bowlers were right on target and the left arm bowler Shahapour bowled with particular fire. Opener Fahd Sadiq had to retire after pulling a calf-muscle and one-drop Abdul Waheed was soon back in the pavilion leaving Bahrain in a dire state.

Bahrain’s captain Yasser Sadeq accepting the
Winners Trophy

It was at this stage that Asgher Bajwa and Asharaf Baig joined together to lay a winning foundation for Bahrain. As Bahrain struggled to raise themselves one last time to save a match, they appeared to have the needed luck to go their way as half-chances just eluded the despairing fielders. Both Asgher and Asharaf played sensible cricket and once they settled, gorged themselves on some weary bowling, unleashing a string of boundaries to the delight of Bahrain’s supporters.

Baig scored a fantastic 48 and even though Bahrain lost a couple of batsmen in the middle order, Bajwa and Akmal Malik pulled of the required runs with Bahrain losing seven wickets. Bajwa top scored for Bahrain with a painstaking 63 runs which contained one 6 and seven 4s.

Afghanistan’s captain
Raees Ahmadzi accepting the Runners-Up Trophy

Bajwa was declared man of the match and man of the series for his outstanding performances.

Bahrain will be delighted with their victory, after coming so close in 2004. Afghanistan showed yet again that given a bit more match-savvy they will be genuine contenders at regional level.

The Kuwait Cricket Association can also be proud of their efforts over the week, though there was some disappointment naturally, that the home side did not make it to the Final. In spite of rain, larger than expected crowds (remarkable considering that the matches started at 8.15 AM), Kuwait showed itself capable of staging a top-class event with all the attendant responsibilities and have set a standard for others to follow.

Related links:
Bahrain - Attitude Determines Altitude
Middle East Cup 2004

Further tournament coverage:
ACC : Middle East Cup 2006

Filed February 28 2006