ACC U-19 Challenge Cup
Maldives v Saudi Arabia

"Maldives had the game under control until the very end," said their manager Afzal Ahmed, "and to lose, it hurts." Indeed. The Maldives played extremely well against a feisty Saudi side throughout the match, trading blows, punching and counter-punching but it was Khalid Obeidy who in the end delivered the knock-out blow.

Maldives' wicket-keeper Ismail Hamed celebrates
another Saudi wicket

Obeidy, having taken a wicket with his first ball of the innings, came back in the 42nd over with Maldives needing just 20 runs with two wickets in hand and sliced through the last two batsmen. Maldives from 117 for 4 in the 26th over when they were cruising to victory lost their way, the run-out of Ahmed Nazim on 130 being critical. Suddenly the game turned and Saudi sensed victory against the odds.

Maldives' Ismail Zaahy bowling to Saudi Arabia's
Mohammad Imran


Mohammad Imran of Saudi Arabia is caught by Mohmed Akram

Saudi Arabia had been under pressure throughout the match, losing a wicket to the first ball of the match by Hassan Ibrahim and then gave three more chances in as many overs. Batting for the first half hour of the morning at the Gymkhana ground at Chiang Mai is never easy bit Saudi Arabia survived. Mohammad Imran, one of those reprieved went on to make 55 off 70 balls.

He bats with style and grace and isn't afraid it thump it as and when the ball deserves it.

But it was never easy. After those early misses Maldives fielded very well and Mohmed Akram took a fine catch in the deep to dismiss Imran as well as a couple of caught-and-bowled blinders. Akram took 4-28, not conceding a single boundary during his unbroken ten-over spell. He gives plenty of air to his off-breaks and getting above the batsmen's eyeline really caused some problems.

Saudi Arabia were all out for 169 inside 42 overs, a little under par but their coach the former Pakistan international Mansoor Akhtar didn't look concerned. With pace-bowlers of the quality of Obeidy and Sufyan Mohamed he shouldn't be. They made life difficult for the Maldives batsmen but once they were seen off, run-scoring became easier. Mihusan Hamid and Husham Ibrahim put on 58 for the 4th wicket at just under a run-a-ball and the game was back on. Hussain Bhatti bowled really well to keep one end tied up.

In the end it came down to nerve and desire. Saudi just had that little bit more hard-edgedness to them and that's what got them holding on to victory. It was a cracker of a match.

ACC U-19 Challenge Cup
Maldives v Saudi Arabia at Chiang Mai Gymkhana
Maldives won the toss and elected to field
Saudi Arabia: 169 off 41.5 overs (M. Imran 55; M. Akram 4-28, M. Gani 3-27)
Maldives: 151 off 43.4 overs (H. Ibrahim 38; W. Obeidy 3-13)
Man of the Match: Mohammad Imran (Saudi Arabia)


Pictures courtesy of Eric Little

Filed January 12 2008