Everyone says China's improving and they remain game competitors, never flagging in energy and desire, but Maldives absolutely thumped them at the Prem Oval to book their place in the semi-final of the ACC Trophy Challenge, where they will face Oman.

Husham Ibrahim of the Maldives

Tight full-length bowling by China initially, Zhang Yufei generating a fair amount of pace, meant that Maldives's openers couldn't get anything away. Ahmed Hussain, frustrated and unable to pierce the inner-ring, was forced to go over the top for Maldives's first boundary in the fourth over.

Ahmed Hassan was yorked by Wang Lei for 39 after a stand of 89 and next ball Maldives's star batsman Moosa Kaleem was forced to play on. China were cock-a-hoop and Wang Lei on the verge of the tournament's first hat-trick. Shafraz Jaleel survived an extremely confident leg-before shout, however, and Maldives weathered the storm.

Li Jian beats Ahmed Hassan

One benefit to the Maldives of Moosa Kaleem falling so early was that it gave the other batsmen a chance to assert themselves. Following opener Ahmed Hussain's fall for 47 (68 balls, 7 fours) Jaleel was joined at the wicket by Afzal Faiz and the two young batsmen put on 138 in just under 15 overs. They ran positively, put away the bad balls and on this easy-paced wicket and with the fast outfield they received full value for their enterprising strokeplay.

Maldives' Afzal Faiz

Shafraz made a 46-ball 50, Faiz's 50 took 34. China's captain Zhao Yang was generous in the field, shelling a few catches himself but overall China kept plugging away. Zhang Yufei and little Li Jian bowled well, "if they were a bit more experienced, they wouldn't have tried so hard every ball", said one of the onlookers, "they would have tried to contain the batsman and not hurl so many balls as fast as they could at the stumps."

The Maldives 300 was reached with a six over wide long-on by Afzal, taking him to 92 in the 43rd over. Afzal going for another six, was well caught at straight long-on. Ironically China held their catches when they mattered less, and the ones they held were relatively difficult. As an example of China's continued eagerness in the face of the Maldives assault Zhang Peng came running up to umpire Batumalai collect the ball to bowl the last over and came in just as hard to deliver every ball ball, taking a wicket with his third.

Maldives' 376 was the highest score of the tournament so far.

Ismail Nihad finds Zhao Yang's edge

Maldives not only hit hard with the bat they attack with the ball too. Hassan Ibrahim fastest of all from the Garden End, though Husham Ibrahim pushed him hard from the Academy End later.  Ishmail Nihad was right on the money to the initially-rendered strokeless Chinese though feisty little Li Jian played struck two forthright boundaries in his little cameo, making 13.

Wang Ronggang made 21 off 49 balls, enjoying a 40-run partnership with Zhong Wenyi for the eight wicket. Ismail Nihad finished with 6-10 off his ten overs.

China v Maldives at Prem Oval
Maldives won the toss and chose to bat Maldives: 376 for 7 off 50 overs (A.Hussain 47, S.Jaleel 79, A.Faiz 93, A.Shafeeu 39; L.Jian 3-57)
China: 61 off 32.2 overs (I.Nihad 6-10)
Man of the Match: Ismail Nihad (Maldives)


ACC Trophy Challenge 2009

Pictures by Robert Thaprom

Filed January 17, 2009