ACC U-19 Challenge Cup 2009 - Iran v Maldives

MALDIVES FIGHT OFF IRAN


After losing two games in the ACC U-19 Challenge so far, games which at times they commanded, Maldives finally broke their duck with a three-wicket win over fiery Iran at the Prem Oval.

After losing two early wickets, Iran's batsmen started to impress. Vahid Balouchi and Abdolvahab Ebrahimipour ran fast and hit hard in a third-wicket partnership of 37. Before the game, Iran’s coach Yousef Raeisi, a senior-team cricketer, spoke of “only practicing on cement tracks back in Baluchistan every single day” and the hard Prem track suited Iran.

Hammad Zareer of Maldives

In their comfort zone facing the faster bowlers, playing spin was a different matter and Hammad Zareer's slow left-arm picked up three wickets, including top-scorer Balouchi (31 off 46).

Iran's pint-sized wicket-keeper Shekar Bejjarzehi and last man Salman Gorgij put on 30 significant runs to take Iran to 122 as they were dismissed in the 32nd over.

Ebrahimipour: Quick and accurate

"Our captain Ebrahimipour is very experienced and is an excellent bowler”, said Mr. Raesi before the match and the broad left-arm paceman stunned the opposition. Maldives lost five wickets for 26 in eight overs; the batsmen unable to deal with Ebrahimipour's pace. The young man has played in the 2008 ACC U-17 Challenge and 2009 Trophy Challenge in Thailand and knew just the length to bowl on this Prem wicket. He picked up four wickets in his second, third and fourth overs; the third being a wicket-maiden.

Coming back after an ankle injury which forced him out of the game against Bahrain, Maldives’ captain Mohamed Akram showed his team wasn't out of it, striking two beautifully timed fours in the 13th over off Sajed Bejarzehi; one a pull over mid-wicket and the second swatted between long-off and long-on. Ever-alert and indifferent to bodily harm on the field, fielding close-in ("it is not often we see grass, and we want to see how we can dive" said Mr. Raeisi). Iran’s efforts paid off when Akram cracked the ball to Aref Raeisi (2-8) who took a stunning reflex return-catch.

Big wicket, Maldives were now 63 for 6 with a lot to do. That became 79 for 7 at the end of the 20th over and it looked like Iran were going to win their first game. With a large portion of the responsibility now resting on Hassan Ibrahim’s (28*) shoulders, the lanky 18-year-old who has impressed already in this competition and on former outings with the senior side, with the ball, now had to save his side with the bat.

Ahmed Mauroof and Ibrahim stopped the onward rush of the Iranian bowlers. Emotions reached its tipping point in the 30th over when Iran felt Ibrahim may have nicked one through to the keeper. Not getting the decision they wanted, Iran’s fielders were on their knees in front of the umpire, appealing, pleading, but to no avail.

Hassan Ibrahim

“Stay and play – that was my strategy”, said Man of the Match Ibrahim. “I knew if I could frustrate them, the bowlers would lose their line and they did.” Maldives got home with three wickets in hand.

Although Iran may have landed in some hot water with their on-field conduct, they have certainly announced their arrival at the ACC U-19 Challenge in Chiang Mai and next face Bahrain tomorrow at Chiang Mai Gymkhana. Both sides are looking for a semi-final place. A win for Bahrain would mean that Iran and Thailand would have to fight it out for a semi-final slot, a win for Iran would mean that it would be Thailand and Iran who duke it out for top-place in the group and thus avoiding a tough semi-final against Kuwait.

ACC U-19 Challenge
Group A: Iran v Maldives at Prem Oval
MALDIVES WON BY THREE WICKETS
Iran won the toss and chose to bat
Iran: 122 all out off 31.5 overs (V. Balouchi 31; H. Zareer 3-33)
Maldives: 123 for 7 off 31.3 overs (A. Ebrahimipour 4-32)
Man of the Match: Hassan Ibrahim (Maldives)
Scorecard

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