by Richard Lockwood

Qatar have looked to be one of the strongest teams in the ACC U-16 Challenge Cup but Bhutan gave them a shock by bowling them out for just 88 at Gymkhana Club. Qatar were able to defend their total thanks to the quality and variety of their bowling attack and some astute captaincy from Saad Khan. Qatar now have three wins out of three to move into second place in the table.

Bhutan won the toss and chose to field hoping there would be some early life in a newly prepared pitch. Qatar were unbeaten in the tournament so far while Bhutan had celebrated their first win the previous day when they beat Maldives.

Qatar captain Saad Khan promoted himself to open alongside wicket-keeper Safwan Shah and his team were hoping to post a big total after being bowled out by China in their first match at Gymkhana. Bhutan's opening attack looked steady in pace rather than ultra-quick and left-hander Saad Khan soon showed his quality by executing a textbook off drive. His partner was dismissed caught and bowled by Phub Thinley as the first wicket fell with the score on 26 in the fifth over.

Saad Khan was looking set as he on drove for four and followed with a cover drive for three to bring up Qatar's fifty in the eighth over. Gentle off-spin was introduced at the end of the mandatory powerplay with Ugyen Tenzin finding a nice line and length in his first over, forcing Saad Khan to employ the reverse sweep. Even better for Bhutan, Tenzin Wangchuk managed to dismiss the Qatar captain caught and bowled for a well-made 32. Qatar were 57 for two after 10 overs.

Qatar's lost their third wicket when Loganathan Lokesh was run out when trying to complete an unlikely second run and was beaten by Phub Tshering's direct hit. 61 for 3 after 11 overs and Bhutan on their toes in the field. Bhutan were employing an in and out field, Qatar's batsmen waiting for the bad ball. Copybook cricket until Saifur Rehman was well caught by Phub Tshering on the deep mid-wicket boundary and worse was to follow for Qatar as Mohammad Shimark fell lbw to Ugyen Tenzin to make the score 75 for 5 after 15 overs.

Bhutan's attacking field placings paid dividends when Athul Rajesh was brilliantly caught at silly mid on by Phub Thinley to give Tenzin Wangchuk his third wicket as Qatar lost their sixth wicket with score on 78. Then in the off-spinner's next over Putam Herath tried to drive but managed only to sky the ball to slip. 81 for 7 after 20 overs.

Bhutan's spinners were both taken off and the opening bowlers were brought back, a surprising move, but it paid off as Khalid Majid was bowled by Phub Thinley as Qatar lost their eighth wicket and worse was to follow as Mohammad Hemaid was run out by the fielder at slip as he stood out of his ground. Tijin Saji hit one boundary but number 11 was also run out as Qatar's innings came to an abrupt end with the total on 88.

Qatar's batsmen had struggled against China's spinners but their collapse here against Bhutan was spectacular. All had seemed set fair for Qatar with captain Saad Khan at the crease as at one stage the score stood at 57 for one but nine wickets then fell for just 31 runs with Tenzin Wangchuk finishing with outstanding figures of 4 for 11. He was well supported with the ball by Phub Thinley and Ugyen Tenzin and by an outstanding fielding performance as there were a series of excellent catches and no fewer than three run outs. Bhutan looked to be on the way to their second win in two days.

Play resumed at mid-day with 50 minutes still to go before lunch. Bhutan's openers, Ugyen Dorji and Aydiv Khatri, were hoping for a solid start but Saad Khan now had the ball in his hand and knew he would have to produce something special: he bowled Ugyen Dorji with his fourth ball without a run on the board.

Qatar wasted no time in turning to spin as slow left-armer Tijin Saji bowled the second over and took a wicket with his first ball as the diminutive Aydiv Khatri was bowled. A wide got Bhutan under way but Tijin Saji took his second wicket as Ugyen Tenzin was also bowled. Bhutan one for three after two and Qatar’s total of 88 suddenly looked an imposing one.

Bhutan's number 3 Jigme Namgyel had made a good impression against Afghanistan and says he likes facing fast bowling but he admits to being not so comfortable against spin. He had to face a combination of pace and spin here but together with Tenzin Wangchuk he looked to steady the ship.

Bhutan's first four runs were all extras. Saad Khan, straining for another breakthrough, was no balled first for bowling a beamer and then for bowling a second bouncer in the over. Loganathan Lokesh took over from the Qatar captain and he also bowled a lively medium pace but both batsmen were now off the mark. Jigme Namgyel was growing in confidence as he cut the left-arm spinner for four and then pushed to mid off for a single. Bhutan were 17 for 3 at the end of the mandatory powerplay.

Jigme Namgyel reached double figures with a pleasant cover drive for two and he was now moving his feet well. He goes to school in Chiang Mai and he plays cricket at Gymkhana every weekend so he felt quite at home at the crease. Now came the sternest test as Patum Herath who claimed eight wickets against China is introduced. He bowls a mixture of leg breaks and faster balls but his first over was survived. Bhutan 23 for 3 after 10 overs.

Qatar were trying everything as a fifth bowler, off-spinner Mohammad Shimark, was used before lunch, but Bhutan were moving forward. Jigme Namgyel rocked back and pulled a short ball from Patum Herath to the mid-wicket boundary and was ready for that faster ball which he nudged to square leg for one. Tenzin Wangchuk hit a full toss for two and Bhutan were now making good progress to be a more healthy 34 for 3 at lunch. 55 more runs required for Bhutan, seven wickets for Qatar. The match was in the balance.

Tall off-spinner Athul Rajesh bowled the first over after the interval and claimed the wicket of Jigme Namgel who edged to slip where he was caught by Saad Khan. Bhutan 36 for 4 in the 14th over.

Phub Tshering came to the wicket to join Tenzin Wangchuk. Saad Khan brought himself back to bowl and runs off the bat were proving hard to find. Extras were mounting as Bhutan reached 43 for 4 after 18 overs.

Patum Herath changed ends and had an appeal for lbw turned down and then left-arm spinner Tijin Saji was brought back and another appeal for lbw was declined. Bhutan reached 49 for 4 after 20 overs. 40 more to win at just 2 runs an over.

The fifty came up in the 21st over but Bhutan's batsmen were looking increasingly tentative and appeals were coming almost every ball. It was no surprise when Tenzin Wangchuk was caught at slip off Patum Herath for a hardfought 13. Bhutan 50 for 5 after 21 overs.

The runs had almost dried up against the accurate Qatar spinners and the next wicket seemed only a matter of time. The close in fielders looked ready to pounce on any half chance and it was Patum Herath who took the sixth wicket, Phub Tshering caught behind for 6 from 30 balls.

Left-arms spinner Tijin Saji finished his spell with figures of two for 15 from 8 overs but there was no respite for Bhutan as Patum Herath claimed two wickets in his next over, as Pema Wanghuck was bowled and Phub Thinley caught at slip. Bhutan 56 for 8 in the 27th over.

Leg-spinner Patum Herath finished with the excellent analysis of four for 11 from his eight overs. Bhutan's total was then boosted by a no ball hit for a single with four overthrows and then by a cut shot to the boundary by Pema Wangchuk. Bhutan 74 for 8 after 32 overs. 15 runs needed from 8 overs with two wickets left. The excitement was mounting.

One run came from the 33rd over bowled by Athul Rajesh and Mohammad Shimark came on to bowl the 34th over. Pema Wangchuk was brilliantly caught by Saad Khan at silly point and it was 75 for 9.

The last pair were at the crease with 14 runs still required. Qatar had the chance to win the match with both batsman at the same end but somehow Bhutan survived. Their relief was shortlived as number 11 Tandin Wangchuk lobbed a catch to short leg. Bhutan were all out for 76 and Qatar had won a nail-biter by 12 runs.

The match could have gone either way but the difference between the two sides on the day was probably the performance of Qatar’s captain Saad Khan. He batted beautifully, took a wicket in the first over of Bhutan’s reply, took two catches when fielding close to the bat and made several astute bowling changes.

Saad Khan was deservedly made man of the match as his team preserved their unbeaten record with their third win. The result of their match against UAE could well decide who is promoted to the Elite Division.

ACC U-16 Challenge Cup 2012

Bhutan v Qatar at Gymkhana
Bhutan won the toss and elected to field
Qatar: 88 all out off 24.4 overs (Saad Khan 32; Tenzin Wangchuk 4 for 11)
Bhutan: 76 all out off 34.4 overs (Patum Herath 4 for 11)
Man of the match: Saad Khan (Qatar)

Tournament page

Filed March 7th, 2012