ACC U-19 Challenge Cup
Bhutan v China

Al-Jazeera sent a crew from Qatar to cover China's latest international match, and even though China took a beating, Al-Jazeera left with footage that impressed them. China have come a long way in a short time, the best comparison one can make is to point to someone learning Chinese after six months. They woudn't beat anyone at Scrabble in Chinese against anyone who's been immersed in the language for years.

Led by their captain Jigme Singye, Bhutan beat China by 160 runs in the ACC U-19 Challenge Cup opener at the Prem Oval. Bhutan took advantage of a super batting track to post 280 for 3 off their 50 overs.

In spite of conceding such a big score, China bowled and fielded well. They made the batsmen work for their runs and the fact that only 96 of Bhutan's 280 came in boundaries, on a blisteringly fast outfield, showed that Bhutan's batsmen had to run plenty. Left-arm seamer Chen Xi Dong was the pick of the bowlers, ably backed up by Du Jinlong, "an excellent one-day bowler", his coach Rashid Khan says with pride.

A number of players on both sides featured in the U-15 Challenge Cup last month and when Jigme Singye was batting against Du Jinlong it was very much déjà vu all over again, battle renewed by two teen titans. Jigme is the biggest wicket in the Bhutan side, Du Jinlong China's 'Mountain Man', a young man strong through the backside and shoulders who hits the deck hard with his incutters.

Du Jinlong forced Jigme into a miscued on-drive early on. Had the chance stuck, Bhutan would have perhaps struggled to pass 200. Jigme survived, cruised to 50 and then in the closing overs along with Sonam Tobgay 51* off 50 really pushed on.

280 was a mightily challenging score but for a while, with the second-wicket partnership of Chen Zhifa and Zhan Jin Hui putting on a run-a-ball 50 partnership, it looked as if China could get close. The batsmen were using their feet, hitting the ball into the gaps, driving crisply and pressing for runs at every opportunity and Bhutan for a while, were under pressure.

China's Zhan Jin Hua on-drives

Manoj Adhikari pulled off a sharp stumping though, in Sushil Sharma's second over, to have Chen dismissed and when Zhan was dismissed three balls later, Bhutan were very much back in the game. The last wickets were a procession as Bhutan's spinners turned the screws. From 80 for 1 in the 16th over, China were all out for 120 at the end of the 28th.

"I expected us to bat for 50 overs, the boys have a lot of talent so I am disappointed, but China can take positives from this match. We bowled and fielded well and look like we can put up a good show in this tournament," said Rashid Khan afterwards.

China actually look like a side who know a lot more than the basics. Bhutan look like the team to beat.

ACC U-19 Challenge Cup
Bhutan v China at Prem Oval
Bhutan won the toss and chose to bat
Bhutan: 280 for 3 after 50 overs (S. Gurung 48, Tashi 48, J. Singye 86*, S. Tongay 51*)
China: 120 off 28 overs (Z. Jin Hui 33; S. Luitel 5-31)
Man of the Match: Jigme Singye (Bhutan)


Pictures courtesy of Prem Oval

Filed January 12 2008