The ACC U-19 Challenge had reached the semi-final stage with Singapore, winners of Group A, facing Maldives, runners-up in Group B at Terdthai, while Oman, winners of Group B, faced China, runners-up in Group A, at AIT. Maldives had played some exciting cricket earlier in the tournament and had done well to reach the semi-finals but here they were over-powered by a classy Singapore side who were determined to make up for their relegation from the Elite last time. The margin of victory was an emphatic nine wickets as Singapore underlined their complete superiority.
The toss was delayed by half an hour to allow conditions to dry out after heavy overnight dew and Singapore won the toss and elected to field and Maldives made a confident as openers Mohamed Rishwan and Ahmed Zaid took 9 runs from the first over bowled by Karthik Suresh, Rishwan launching the free hit following a no ball to the square leg boundary. The bowler found a better line in his second over and Rishwan could only guide the ball to fourth slip to be dismissed for 7.
Maldives soon lost their second wicket as captain Ibrahim Nashanth was caught and bowled by Karthik Suresh as he tried to fend off a quick delivery. Singapore's opening bowlers were looking impressive. Maldives were 10 for 2 after 5 overs.
Karthik Suresh had been pushing the batsmen back with his pace and bounce and Ahmed Yaanis at last had the chance to come forward only to be caught at silly point for 1 from 16 balls as the bowler claimed his third wicket.
Brighu Iyer had also bowled well with the new ball, conceding only 3 runs in his first 4 overs, and finally he gained reward as trapped Leem Shafeeg lbw as Maldives were 16 for 4 after 10 overs.
Maldives finally saw off the two opening bowlers with Suresh Karthik having figures of 7-2-14-3 and Brighu Iyer backing him up well with 6-2-9-1. Ahmed Zaid had just reached double figures after surviving for an hour and Sunan Ali was looking to play his shots but now Maldives had to contend with Abhiraj Singh, the tournament's leading wicket-taker.
Maldives had reached 40 for 4 after 18 overs but both batsmen were hitting the ball in the air and Ahmed Zaid wasn't able to clear mid-off to give Abhiraj his first wicket of the day.
Spin was on at both ends and Maldives were still trying to hit the ball over the fielders and left-hander Mohamed Saafee was caught at mid-off from the bowling of Archit Goenka as Maldives lost their sixth wicket on 44.
Maldives were not learning from their mistakes as Sunan Ali was caught at mid-on off Abhiraj Singh and the eighth wicket soon followed as Ismail Nashwan was lbw to Archit Goenka. Maldives were a rather disappointing 51 for 9 as Adam Nasif was run out without scoring.
The Maldives innings ended soon afterwards as their batsmen had proved unable to deal with a testing new ball spell or with Singapore's spinners. Number 11 Mohamed Mabrook was the last man to fall as he was bowled by Archit Goenka who collected his third wicket for just 7 runs. Maldives were bowled out for 54 in 25.5 overs after what can only be described as a sub-standard batting performance.
Maldives have a more than useful bowling attack but their chances of putting Singapore under pressure look slight as they conceded runs to an overthrow and dropped a catch. Maldives did take their first wicket as Archit Goenka was caught at square leg off left-arm spinner Mohamed Saafee.
Maldives were trying all their bowling options with leg-spinner Sunan Ali given an early bowl but Vaikunth Sheshadri hit the first boundary of the innings as Singapore looked largely untroubled at 31 for 1 after 10 overs.
Singapore's captain Varun Sivaram looked a very composed young batsman and had top scored in Singapore's last match against Myanmar. He was now showing Maldives how the ball can be pushed into the gaps off the spinners as he led his side close to victory.
The Singapore batsmen's footwork was much more evident with Sivaram in particular quick to use his feet to come down the wicket to the spinners. Still only one boundary in the innings with 10 more runs required to win.
Maldives turned to their sixth bowler in 18 overs but the end is nigh as Varun Sivaram brought up the fifty with an on-drive for four. Two to win and a quick single brought the scores level.
The manner of Singapore's victory was straightforward as their captain pushed the ball into the off-side for another easily taken single. Singapore had won by 9 wickets, needing only 18.2 overs to reach their target and claim a place in the ACC U-19 Challenge final. Both batsmen were unbeaten on 22 without having taken any risks.
Singapore look a strong all-round team as they have won five matches out of five in this tournament but they have not yet been tested with their semi-final opponents completely outclassed. Maldives clearly still struggle with the bat against decent fast bowling and their attempts to attack the spinners were equally unsuccessful. It was a disappointing display in a semi-final match.
The final between Singapore and Oman is a mouth-watering prospect between two formidable sides, while China and Maldives will meet in the third and fourth place play-off in an intriguing battle between two emerging nations for the title of best of the rest.
ACC U-19 Challenge 2013
SF1: Singapore v Maldives at Terdthai
SINGAPORE WON BY NINE WICKETS
Singapore won the toss and elected to field
Maldives: 54 all out off 25.5 overs (K.Suresh 3-14, A.Goenka 3-7)
Singapore: 55 for 1 off 18.2 overs (V.Shedashri 22*, V.Sivaram 22*)
Man of the Match: Karthik Suresh (Singapore)
Filed December 15th, 2013