Singapore had proved far too strong for China in their first encounter in Group A of the ACC U-19 Challenge when China had been bowled out for 68 and quickly beaten by seven wickets, but this time Singapore were made to fight all the way before winning by 109 runs, a result which brought them a place in the semi-finals.
China won the toss and perhaps understandably chose to field first and they claimed an early wicket. Archit Goenka and Vaikunth Seshadri had shared an opening stand of 66 together against Iran but Seshadri was caught as silly mid-off as Singapore lost their first wicket on 24.
China soon turned to spin as Wang Jing brought himself on to bowl his off-breaks in the sixth over. China's spinners had bowled well in their victory over Iran, while Singapore had struggled themselves against Iran's spinner Hossein Lashari who had collected six wickets.
Singapore's innings was progressing nicely against two off-spinners and the fifty was raised in the 13th over with only one wicket down but captain Varun Sivaram was run out as bowler Wang Jing made up for a poor return with a direct hit of his own.
China were not taking their chances with two straightforward catches being dropped. Opener Archit Geonka was using his feet well and Navin Param looked able to strike the ball well off the back foot. Singapore were 86 for 2 after 20 overs at the first drinks break.
Singapore lost their third wicket with the score on 95 as Archit Goenka was stumped by Tian Haiyang off third off-spinner Cheng Jinfeng for 41 but Abhiraj Singh has joined Navin Param and he looked a classy left-hander as well as being an accomplished left-arm spinner. Singapore were 119 for 3 at the halfway stage of their innings.
Wang Jing was back for his second spell and was bowling accurately, and Singapore's fourth wicket pair were content to play him with respect but Navin Param pullled Song Yangyang to the boundary when he dropped short.
Navin Param and Abhiraj Singh completed the fifty partnership for the fourth wicket and Singapore's 150 came up in the 33rd over as the China persevered with an all-spin attack but Navin Param suddenly attempted a sweep shot and was caught at square leg for 46. Singapore were 156 for 4 after 35 overs.
Abhiraj Singh has had an outstanding tournament so far and he reached his fifty from 56 balls with five fours as Singapore took the batting powerplay after 35 overs.
40 runs came in the next five overs as Singapore looked to bat China out of the match and the 200 came up in the 42nd over with four wickets down.
Some respite for China as they claimed a fifth wicket as Prateek Mishra was lbw to Song Yangyang for 9, made out of a partnership of 61, and the same bowler dismissed Brigu Iyer when he couldn't clear fine leg with a sweep.
With five overs to go the main question was could Abhiraj Singh become the first batsman to score a century in the competition but the answer was no as he was caught at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Chen Jingfeng who proceeded to take a hat-trick as Utsav Rakshit and Abhinav Raman attempted ambitious shots against the turning ball. Quite a turn around as Singapore were now nine wickets down.
China deserve great credit for bowling out Singapore inside the 50 overs as captain Wang Jing took an outstanding caught and bowled as he quickly turned, ran and dived full length. Now his team needed to bat much better than they did in their first match against Singapore.
Facing a stiff target of 249 in 50 overs, China's first task was to survive an awkward period before lunch but their first wicket fell in the third over with the score on 10 when Zhong Wenyi was caught behind off the bowling of Karthik Suresh for 3. China's total had moved on to 16 for one in 5 overs at lunch.
China's task was getting harder by the minute even after reaching the end of the mandatory powerplay with only one wicket down. In the next over Ge Yongsheng was caught at slip for 2 and immediately afterwards Lin Zhengpei was run out for nought to leave China on 31 for 3.
Left-hander Qing Peng saw his side to victory in their match against Iran but he was unsettled by a short ball from Brigu Iyer and edged the next to first slip as he could make only 2 as China lost their fourth wicket on 37. Opener Song Yangyang was holding firm and he was joined by wicket-keeper Tian Haiyang.
China were now being tested by Singapore's slow bowlers, off-spinner Navin Param and left-arm spinner Abhiraj Singh. The latter was looking to add to his tally of eight wickets for 25 runs in two matches but Song Yangyang was batting steadily and Tian Haiyan was going for his shots. China had already passed the score they made against Singapore at AIT with just four wickets down.
Abhiraj was replaced by leg-spinner Abhirav Raman and powerful wicket-keeper Tian Haiyan hit him for three fours and two sixes in an over that cost 28 runs. Suddenly China had passed the 100 mark and the match had come alive.
Singapore recalled opening bowler Brigu Iyer but Song Yangyeng met every ball of his over with the middle of his bat. Tian Haiyan was not so fortunate as he was caught at mid-wicket for 49 after an innings full of defiance.
Abhiraj Singh returned for his second spell and finally ended the resistance of Song Yangyang who had batted for over two hours for his 40 before pushing a return catch back to the bowler but he had shown admirable application against a varied bowling attack.
After looking likely to bat out their overs even if they didn't get close to Singapore's target, China quickly lost a trio of wickets towards the end of their innings with Abhiraj Singh collecting his second caught and bowled and his second run out. China's captain Wang Jing remained at the crease but nine wickets were down for 130 after 40 overs.
Fittingly it was Abhiraj Singh who finished the match with his third wicket as Wang Jing was caught behind for 13 as China were bowled out for 139 in the 45th over. Singapore won by 109 runs to clinch a place in the semi-finals as they looked to put their relegation from the elite division behind them. Abhiraj was leading the way with a man of the match performance with his batting proving more crucial than his bowling on this occasion.
China may have lost the match but they had given a much better account of themselves than in the first contest against Singapore and three individual performances stood out that bode well for the future: off-spinner Chen Jinfeng took a hat-trick, opener Song Yangyang resisted for more than two hours for his 40, and wicket-keeper Tian Haiyan hit five fours and two sixes in his attractive 49.
ACC U-19 Challenge 2013
Group A: Singapore v China at Terdthai
SINGAPORE WON BY 109 RUNS
China won the toss and elected to field
Singapore: 248 all out off 48.5 overs (N.Param 46, A.Singh 84; J.Chen 4-49)
China: 139 all out off 44.3 overs (Y.Song 40, H.Tian 49; A.Singh 3-21)
Man of the Match: Abhiraj Singh (Singapore)
Filed December 10th, 2013