The last day of the 2013 ACC U-19 Challenge saw two outstanding teams in the competition, Oman and Singapore, contest the final at Terdthai in Bangkok. Both sides were unbeaten and the winners of today's final would justly be able to claim they were a champion team. It proved to be Singapore who became worthy winners of an exciting contest as they were able to defend a total of 169. They had reached that total thanks to an innings of great application from their captain Varun Sivaram and they were able to defend it largely thanks to an outstanding spell of left-arm spin from Player of the Tournament Abhiraj Singh.
Singapore were asked to bat first after Oman had won the toss. It looked to be a good day to be bowling on a muggy morning where the ball was expected to swing. Oman's opening bowlers were both medium-fast and looked to pitch the ball up. Waseem Al Balushi showed what was possible as he took a wicket in the second over as Vaikanth Sheshadri was caught behind by a diving Jathin Vairijakshan.
Singapore were now content to see off the new ball as they looked to bat out their 50 overs for the first time in the competition. Archit Goenka was the leading run-scorer for Singapore as he approached 150 runs and captain Varun Sivaram had looked very composed at the crease in the last two matches against Iran and Maldives.
Singapore lost their second wicket with all their watchful batting undone by an attempted single resulted in Archit Goenka being run out for 12 with Singapore on 29 for 2.
Spin was into the attack as Oman captain Shreyas Malhotra was bowling his off-spin fresh from a man of the match performance in the semi-final against China while opening bowler Gayas Dias had changed ends. Navin Param was now batting with his captain who had reached 20.
Singapore's fifty came up in the 17th over as both batsmen began to impose themselves against the off-spinner as the short leg was twice forced to take evasive action. As the players took drinks Singapore were 58 for 2.
Now we had a pair of left-arm spinners bowling in tandem in the form of Wasim Ali and Akshay Jathar as Oman were searching for another breakthrough. Singapore's third-wicket pair looked determined to lay a firm foundation for the innings.
We were watching an intriguing battle between two technically correct batsmen and the two left-arm spinners. Sivaram and Param had raised the fifty partnership for the third wicket but they had looked in danger of getting bogged down and Param was out caught for 20 from 40 balls as he tried to take advantage of a rare full toss.
Left-hander Abhiraj Singh came to the wicket with an impressive record of 130 runs and 15 wickets in the tournament and the Oman captain has returned to confront him with his off-spin. Great excitement from the fielding side as the danger man was run out by a direct hit from Gayash Dias for just 1. Singapore were 87 for 4 and Oman were looking sharp in the field.
Singapore were now looking to rebuild their innings and Oman were rotating their spinners cleverly as the bowling was proving difficult to get away with the fielders kept inside the circle.
Singapore's hundred came up in 32nd over with their captain approaching a patient 50 as runs were still hard to come by.
The dot balls were mounting up with two left-arm spinners bowling with only two men out. Singles were being taken but always with the threat of another run out. The batting power play was taken after 35 overs but Oman didn't need to change the field.
20 overs had now passed without a boundary but opening bowler Gayash Dias was into the attack and the extra pace on the ball might help the Singapore batsmen. Varun Sivaram finally completed his half-century with a cover-drive for two but it had taken him 103 balls and 129 minutes.
Runs began to come more freely as Prateek Mishra at last hit a four but he fell caught behind to left arm seamer Hemil Ganatra as Singapore lost their fifth wicket on 128.
Brigu Iyer was sixth man out but Singapore's captain had set his stall to bat through the innings. The seventh wicket was a third run out as Shreyas Malhotra ran out Karthik Suresh when he was backing up too far as Oman were clearly desperate to win.
Varun Sivaram's innings finally ended when he was caught at deep -wicket and it was almost the first time he had hit the ball in the air as Shreyas Malhotra took his second wicket. Singapore were 148 for 8 in the 45th over and their captain had made 68 from from 138 balls in 165 minutes in an innings of great application.
The tail-enders were going for their shots and running for everything as they tried to build a match-winning total but yet again Singapore just failed to bat out their 50 overs as they were bowled out for 169 in 49.1 overs. The wickets were shared between six bowlers and Oman would have fancied their chances of chasing down a target of 170 in 50 overs.
We were all set for an exciting conclusion to the ACC U-19 Challenge as news came in that China had won the third place play-off against Maldives by six runs as they successfully defended a total of 106. Chasing a target would be the key to this match as the highest total batting second in the tournament is the 139 made by China against Singapore at Terdthai.
Oman have the strongest batting side in the tournament on paper with Gayash Dias the leading run-scorer but Singapore have a formidable bowling attack with two tall fast bowlers and several spinners including Abhiraj Singh who had already claimed 15 wickets. It would be an engrossing contest between bat and ball.
The pressure of chasing a target was already showing as Oman lost their first wicket to a run out as Jathan Varijakshan is stranded as he charged down the wicket and his partner remained in his crease.
Oman's approach to batting is more ambitious than Singapore's as opener Muntazir Zaidi was not afraid to hit the ball in the air and struck two boundaries. 21 runs came from the first 3 overs which required a change of tempo in the bowling attack and it paid immediate dividends. Archit Goenka bowled an over of off-spin but the crucial moment of the match probably came when Abhiraj Singh bowled to Gayash Dias and had him brilliantly caught at slip by Navin Param for 2. Abhiraj then had Muntazir out lbw and Archit also struck as he bowled Wasim Ali. Oman were reduced to 23 for 4 as three wickets had fallen for 1 run. Abhiraj now had the remarkable figures of 4-3-4-2 as the spinners were maintaining the pressure on Oman. Shuaib Al Balushi had hit three boundaries but Akshay Jathar was concentrating on survival.
Oman had steadied their innings and seen off Abhiraj after a spell of 5-3-7-2. The fifth-wicket pair of Shuaib Al Balushi and Akshay Jathar brought up the fifty in the 16th over and Shuaib was already on 30. Singapore now turned to their leg-spinner Simar Miglani so we would be in for an interesting stage of the match.
Oman needed less than a hundred runs to win with 28 overs left but they had just lost their fifth wicket as Akshay Jathar was caught at md-on from the bowling of Archit Goenka for 5 from 43 balls. Shuaib Al Balushi then hit three boundaries in an over from the leg-spinner to reach an accomplished fifty from 55 balls with a remarkable 10 fours. It will be a memorable innings if he can see his side to victory from a position of 23 for 4.
Singapore's captain made another intelligent bowling change as he brought back Abhiraj to bowl at the dangerous Shuaib and he so nearly proved a masterstroke only for a simple chance escape from the cover fielder's clutches. Abhiraj bowled two maidens against Shuaib but Taha Hassan on-drove Archit Goenka for four as the off-spinner finished with figures of 10-4-21-2. Abhiraj had also come off so Oman looked to be winning the battle against Singapore's spinners as Shuaib cut the leg-spinner for four and hit him high over mid-wicket for six to raise the hundred in the 30th over. 69 more runs to win in 20 overs.
Another over from Abhiraj was used up and Taha Hassan managed to hit him for four over cover, so Singapore turned back to their new ball bowlers, Brigu Iyer and Karthik Suresh, but Taha Hassan was coming into his own as he had now contributed an important 19 out to a partnership of 50. Aditya Sudharshan was given a chance to bowl his medium pace and he induced an edge from Shuaib who was caught behind for an aggressive 65 from 84 balls with 12 fours and a six. Oman were now 122 for 6 and the match was in the balance again. Oman lost their seventh wicket as the Singapore seam bowlers were beginning to find the right length. Karthik Suresh pitched the ball up and trapped Oman captain Shreyas Malhotra lbw for 2. Oman were 126 for 7.
Oman can bat all the way down the order as they showed when recovering from seven wickets down to beat Maldives and Taha Hassan looked to have got the measure of Aditya Sudharshan when he hit a massive straight six into the lake at the far end of the ground, only to place the next ball straight into deep cover’s hands. Oman needed 26 runs from 10 overs with two wickets left. Waseem Al Balushi and Hemil Ganatra were now at the crease and could still bring their side to victory by batting sensibly. They were defending stoutly but a big shot was coming at any moment. Hemil got two runs from a free hit as 20 were now needed from 8 overs.
Abhiraj was back and he got Waseem Al Balushi lbw for 1 to claim his third wicket and the last pair were now at the crease. Abhiraj duly completed his sixth maiden. A wide and two singles was a useful return from the 44th over bowled by Karthik Suresh and here was Abhiraj to bowl his last over. He bowled another maiden and his figures were an exceptional 10-7-11-3. 17 runs were needed from 5 overs.
It was left to Karthik Suresh to take the last wicket as Hemil Ganatra was caught behind for 4 and Oman had been bowled out for 153 to give victory to Singapore by 16 runs at the end of an exciting final between the best two sides in the competition.
Singapore were worthy champions as they had a fine all-round side well led by Varun Sivaram who played the definitive captain’s innings to guide his side to a total of 169 and he had the bowling attack to defend that total with two dependable opening bowlers and a third seamer, together with the outstanding Abhiraj Singh who was by far the player of the tournament.
China’s performance in winning the third place play-off against Maldives allows them to look forward to promising days in the future when they may be the strongest team in the new emerging division. Singapore and Oman will be able to test themselves against stronger sides at this level in coming years.
ACC U-19 Challenge 2013
Winners - Singapore
Best Bowler - Mohammad Saafee (Maldives)
Best Batsman - Gayash Dias (Oman)
Player of the Tournament - Abhiraj Singh (Singapore)
Final: Singapore v Oman at Terdthai
SINGAPORE WON BY 16 RUNS
Oman won the toss and elected to field
Singapore: 169 all out off 49.1 overs (V.Sivaram 68)
Oman: 153 all out off 45.2 overs (S.Al Balushi 65, T.Hassan 39; A.Singh 3-11)
Man of the Match: Varun Sivaram (Singapore)
3rd/4th Playoff: Maldives v China at AIT
CHINA WON BY SIX RUNS
China won the toss and chose to bat
China: 106 all out off 34.5 overs (M.Mabrook 3-19)
Maldives: 100 all out off 31.3 overs (Y.Song 3-40, M.Han 3-22)
Man of the Match: Wang Jing (China)
Filed December 15th, 2013