LEAGUE A CHALLENGE
The Danes stayed in touch with the top of the table with a 91-point win over Malaysia ©Getty
Hosts Canada confirmed their status as favorites in the CWC Challenge League A, completing a perfect run in the competition’s home leg with a comprehensive 204-point win over Vanuatu in their final game yesterday.
The Canadians will head into the league’s final game in Malaysia in December with a four-point lead over second-placed Singapore, whose six-wicket win over Vanuatu took them past second-placed Denmark. The Danes stayed in touch with the top of the table with a 91-point victory over Malaysia, the latter winless in Canada despite a remarkable recovery led by Muhammad Amir Azim and the tail, missing four points in their dramatic final game against Qatar. .
Canada found themselves in trouble early on when the teams finally entered the park, a damp outfield in King City, which was slowly draining, seeing the match reduced to 38 overs per team. Ni-Vanuatu’s new pair of balls Apolinaire Stephen and Nalin Nipiko took a pair of wickets apiece up front as Canada stumbled to 34-4 but Nicholas Kirton and Nalman Nazar then dug in and gave the kick off, adding 155 for the fourth wicket.
Nazar apparently voluntarily gave way to big hitter Ravinderpal Singh shortly after raising his fifty, in what at the time appeared to be a tactical retirement but was ultimately attributed to a fleeting injury. If it was indeed a ploy, it paid off – Singh hit four straight booming sixes as he ran 42* from 17 as Kirton finished his century. The pair took Canada to an unassailable 246-4. Vanuatu’s pursuit fell apart in short order as flyhalf Joshua Rasu was the only batter to make double digits in response. Saad bin Zafar and Dillon Heyliger each took two wickets to see the ni-Vanuatu top order, before debutant offspinner Rommel Shahzad ripped the tail off, finishing with 4-24 as Vanuatu slumped to 42 all.
Meanwhile, Denmark and Malaysia lost just one goal apiece due to weather on the nearby pitch and the Danes put their 49 to good use, with tournament top scorer Hamid Shah dialing in a patient 75 on 126 to establish a platform after the early loss of the more aggressive Nicolaj Laegsgaard. Along with Saif Ahmed, he added 116 for the fourth wicket, before Shah departed, missing a midway drive from Muhammad Amir in the 42nd. Ahmed continued with the tail, finding support from Surya Anand and Oliver Hald to take the Danes to 242-6, finishing unbeaten at 92 from 103.
Nicolaj Laegsgaard put Denmark ahead at the start of the second leg, winning two wickets in his first half. The lanky left arm spinner first had Syed Aziz catch on the midwicket rope before taking the outside edge from Saifullah Malik. A century-long partnership between Ahmad Faiz and Virandeep Singh brought Malaysia back into the game, but after Shah broke the partnership with the first ball in the 34th, Laegsgaard fired them straight away. The last eight wickets dropped to just 27 runs as Laegsgaard proved nearly unplayable, finishing with numbers 6 for 6 in nine overs as Malaysia slumped to 151.
The victory briefly put Denmark in second place with 12 points, ahead of Singapore on net run rate, but Singapore picked up a quick win over Vanuatu in their final game to regain second place. Vanuatu’s stick let them down again as Aryaman Uchil tore through the top order with three successive wickets in his first spell. Jaryd Allen and Jamal Vira offered some resistance mid overs but both would fall to Janak Prakash in the 20’s before Prakash and Vinoth Baskaran cleared the tail to defeat Vanuatu for 111. Singapore took just 14 .2 overs to chase, despite Josh Rasu and Williamsing Nalisa each picking up a pair of wickets. Anish Paraam’s unbeaten 40 out of number four’s 30 got them across the line in record time.
On the nearby pitch, Qatar and Malaysia were far from finished, as Amir Azim defiantly held Qatar back with the tail after Malaysia collapsed to 59-8 in pursuit of the 181-9 aggregate from Qatar. Skipper Mohammad Rizlan’s 46 from 77 and Mohammed Imraz’s unbeaten 47 had given Qatar a creditable score from a worn and deteriorated wicket, before the Malaysian batting order collapsed in response. At 59-8 after 16.2 overs, it looked like the game would be the first of the day’s games to end, but Azim held firm and Pavandeep Singh clung to him for another 11 overs.
Azim topped the scoring but was ready to expose his partner as the pair put in 54 for the ninth wicket. An unnecessary run broke the partnership in the 28th to bring last man Anwar Rahman to the middle with 68 still needed. The final wicket totaled another 64 runs and took Malaysia to the brink of victory, but the challenge was snuffed out with five runs remaining. Azim remained unbeaten on the 71st, watching Rahman be pinned LBW by Muhammad Murad with the end in sight, with the Qatari side cutting their celebrations short to console him.