The match between Iran and Maldives at the Prem Oval could have been close today, that it wasn't was due to the fact that Maldives bowled well, Iran batted poorly. Maldives ran home by eight wickets after dismissing Iran for 79.

Iran's batsmen didn't have it as easy as against China. 17-year old Hassan Ibrahim if not as fast as Oman's opening bowlers in this tournament, was pretty sharp nevertheless. He bowled Ebrahimpour early – one of the bails flying thirty yards behind the batsman. Ibrahim impressed mightily and looks an excellent prospect. He bowled eight overs straight through finishing with 2-19.

Yesterday Iran feasted on China's propensity, as beginners, to bowl basic wicket-to-wicket deliveries. Today, the cannier Maldives aimed a lot of deliveries outside off-stump, out of the reach of the batsmen.

Ibrahim's partner at the other end, Neesham Nasir, dropped danger-man Baloochnezad at fine-leg off a top-edged pull, when the batsman was on 4. To add insult to injury Baloochnezad then struck Neesham to the cover boundary four balls later. It was a good duel between Hassan and Baloochnezad which the bowler won on points even though he couldn't deliver the knockout blow.

Iran's Baloochnezad falls

Baloochnezad did eventually fall for 17 off 36 balls, the top of middle stump knocked back by an inswinger from Abdullah Shahid. Baloochnezad, stunned, stayed at the wicket for quite some time, before walking off.

Batting's been difficult in Chiang Mai this month, particularly cold weather has created wet grounds with wickets not really dry until the afternoon. Batsmen have struggled with balls fizzing and zipping.  Iran's captain hit his first ball for four through mid-off, coming down the wicket as is his wont and then creamed a Shahid delivery to the cover boundary, shot of the innings. Three balls later Bakhtiar heaved at a booming inswinger from Shahid and it was all over. Iran were now 49-4 in the 15th over and from then on Iran could barely get the ball off the square and there were no boundaries for the remainder of the innings.

Bakhtiar goes

Moosa Kaleem, half-healed post-operative foot and six variations of off-spin per over, put a brake on the scoring in partnership with Shahid and once slow left-armer Mahafooz Mohamed came on, the Iran innings folded.

Nariman Bakhtiar came steaming in from the Garden End, roaring out two big appeals in his first two balls, the umpires and batsmen remained unmoved.  Maldives openers struggled against a brisk attack however. Ahmed Hussain dropped at second slip in the second over, the next ball came off the splice and Abdolvahab Ebrahimpour, a promising young left-arm seamer was the disappointed one this time.

Shahid dropped ever so catchably at mid-off when on 9, led a charmed life, even when he was caught by Yousuf Raeisi, it took two juggles, a snatch, grab and final clasp before he eventually went.

Bakhtiar to Kaleem was a good contest

19-year old Ahmed Hassan coming in looked a proper batsman and with his captain Moosa Kaleem who pulled his first ball for 4 – three slips in place for him – Bakhtiar knowing how important his opposite number's wicket was, got Maldives innings on track. Kaleem – gripes with the bounce of the wicket notwithstanding, "it was like playing on gravel," on-drove his third ball beautifully for three and even better was the punch through point off Atnan Zehi. "Shot of the day," said Match Referee Richard Bartholomew with similarly exquisite timing.

Mahafooz Mohamed rides high

Kaleem did give a chance off a loped pull when on 16, but Zehi, running in from backward square-leg on 16, dropped the eminently catchable offering. Bakhtiar's one-word exclamation to his fielder was loud, succinct and distinctly Anglo-Saxon.

Kaleem hit Bakhtiar for another four two balls later just to emphasise the magnitude of the miss, the winning run being stroked by him soon after.

ACC Trophy Challenge 2009
Iran v Maldives at Prem Oval
Maldives won the toss and elected to field
Iran: 79 off 35 overs (A.Shahid 3-21, M.Mohamed 4-6)
Maldives: 80 for 2 off 16 overs
Man of the Match: Mahafooz Mohamed (Maldives)


Pictures by Danny Bowes

Filed January 14, 2009