After below par performances in their opening matches, Malaysia and Singapore both needed to win to give their hopes of that much desired semi-final slot alive. The teams’ rivalry goes back decades across many formats of the game. Today it was Malaysia who prevailed, their young guard triumphing over the more seasoned Singaporeans. “We executed our game plan perfectly,” said Malaysia’s captain Suhan Kumar.

Singapore's Chaminda Ruwan smites one of his four 6s

Singapore’s pivotal all-rounder Chetan was absent with strained shoulder ligaments picked up in the loss to Maldives the day before. Rezza Gaznavi assumed the main aggressor’s role: swinging through the line of anything pitched up and depositing anything short over the ropes. Nazril Rahman bore the brunt of the assault but bowled some good deliveries, at pace, which troubled Gaznavi. Mutreja was run-out in a mix-up, after driving to mid-off, Gaznavi not moving from the crease at the non-strikers end even though he was called through.

Hammad Ullah Khan on at the Clubhouse End, fired one in wide and short of a length and Gaznavi flashed flat-footedly to be caught behind. Hammad almost beat Saad Khan next with one that skidded through off a length, but the new Tribhuvan wicket played well with good pace and carry. With Gaznavi’s dismissal two of the hardest hitters in the competition came together and, with the ball just a little wet because of overnight dews resting on the outfield, on a colder than usual morning, the spinners took some punishment as soon as the Malaysian fast bowlers came off.

Off-spinner Nik Arifin’s solitary over went for 24, and Khizar Durrani conceded 48 off four. But wet ball or no, Shahrulnizam Yusof is a very capable left-arm spinner and he had Saad Khan caught at point, dropping it short as he saw the big man coming down the wicket. Singapore’s captain was out for 18 of 21. 100 was passed in the 12th over, for the loss of three wickets, Chaminda Ruwan carried on and his 47 off 25 deliveries set a platform for a late order Singapore surge by Anish Param who struck two soaring 6s and three emphatic 4s in his 29-ball undefeated 44.

Malaysia’s seamers were more successful than their spinners, as, on an atypical Nepalese track the spinners found hardly any purchase off the surface. 90 runs had come off 21 deliveries and had Singapore run better off the other 99 they’d have ended on far more than 171.

Dharmichand pouches Malaysia's Faizal Abu Hasan

Hammad Khan who had slipped on the boundary’s edge and spent a few overs off the field with a sore groin was fit enough to open. Malaysia had a streaky start, several miscues falling just out of reach of the fielders but runs came. Hammad was out under-edging an effort ball from Pramodh for 9, Malaysia 18 for 1 in the third over. Singapore’s seamers built up some good rhythm. Shoib Razzak finding good bounce and carry whenever he pitched short and he varied his length well, aiming the ball in the off-stump corridor. Faizal holed out to Dharmichand off Shoib with the score on 20.

50 was passed in the eighth over, a little behind the rate but not unclimbable and at 62 for 3 with the dismissal of Ahmed Faiz in the ninth over, Anish Param taking a good catch running in one ball after slamming Saad Khan over the long-on boundary. The game was in Singapore’s favour.

Much depended on Suhan Kumar and he responded. Half-way point: 73 for 3, still in it. Malaysia taking a lot of singles. Malaysia’s wicket-keeper Shafiq Sharif has added weight to his strokes and improvisations too but when he top-edged sweep, to be well caught one-handed by the 'keeper, the momentum was with Malaysia. Suhan Kumar and the return of the Singapore pacemen now the keys to the match. Saad Khan back on from the Chovar End, his first ball flicked off the legs for four by Khizar Durrani, who if he scored anything like the runs he conceded, would win the match for Malaysia. He did, but it was his captain who ultimately steered the match Malaysia’s way.

Malaysia's Man of the Match, Suhan Kumar
Suhan’s 50 came up (29 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes) with 30 still wanted. He slammed his next ball over the arms of midwicket for 6 and then reverse-swept Dharmichand for 4. 16 wanted, four overs remaining. It only took two. “We conceded a few too many runs, but our batsmen really did well. We rotated the strike and everyone scored runs and it was a terrific team effort,” said Suhan Kumar Malaysia’s victorious captain.

ACC Twenty20 Cup 2013
Group A, Malaysia v Singapore at Tribhuvan University Ground
Malaysia won the toss and elected to field
Singapore: 171 for 6 off 20 overs (C.Ruwan 47, A.Param 44*)
Malaysia: 172 for 4 off 18 overs (S.Kumar 70*, K.Durrani 30*)
Man of the Match: Suhan Kumar (Malaysia)

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Filed March 28th, 2013