Singapore’s cricketers made a big statement of intent on December 16 when they beat Hong Kong by eight wickets and entered the final of the Asian Cricket Council Under-16 Eastern Region tournament in Bangkok.
In the final on December 17, they will encounter Nepal, who beat Malaysia by 72 runs at the Terdthai Cricket Ground.
At the Asian Institute of Technology ground, Hong Kong elected to bat first after winning the toss. But they never got going and were unable to put on big partnerships as Singapore’s medium-pacers and spinners maintained a tight and penetrative line and length.
Their top-scorer was No. 9 batsman Abdul Urslan, who made 22 off 14 balls. And their biggest partnership of 38 came for the eighth wicket between Abdul and Sachin Suresh (19/32).
Spinners Ishaan Sawney (2-13) and Aryan Berry (2-22) did most of the damage for Singapore, who also fielded well. Medium-pacer Pranav Sudarshan took 2-22 and back-up medium-pacer Atharva Gune 2-16 as Hong Kong were bowled out for 123 in 34.4 overs. Atharva came on at the end and produced a splendid burst after opening bowler Raoul Sharma got injured.
“Hong Kong’s batsmen found it difficult to score because our spinners Ishaan and Vinit Mehta (1-16) choked them after our medium-pacers Pranav and Raoul came up with a good opening spell,” said Singapore’s coach Chetan Suryawanshi. “Then at the end Atharva stepped in and cleaned them up.” In reply, Singapore raced to 125-2 in 24 overs, with captain and opener Aman Desai, after three poor knocks, hitting a responsible 55 off 70 balls. He and Ishaan (48 not out/65 balls) put on 89 runs for the second wicket which virtually cemented Singapore’s win.
“It was a clinical chase,” said Chetan. “Our batsmen applied themselves and Ishaan, who won his third man of the match award in the tournament, took us over the line.”
For Aman, the key was batting without pressure. “Both Chetan Sir and (manager) Irfan (Madakia) Sir told us to bat to our strengths as we had the capability to handle both pace and spin well,” he said. “It was only a matter of applying ourselves. The two also helped me to get out of my rut. The fluent win is a very good confidence booster for the final.”
Nepal have impressive spinners who have got them convincing wins in the tournament so far. But Aman and Chetan are confident the Singapore team can match up to the talents of the Himalayan side in the final at the Asian Institute of Technology ground.
“We have prepared well on the turning track at the Singapore Indian Association ground,” said Chetan. “Our boys are well-equipped to play spin. Aman and Ishaan showed against Hong Kong that they can use their feet well. We have all-round strength and we are confident we can win the final.”
Aman too felt Singapore’s all-round abilities will swing the final in their favour.
“Nepal have won all their matches so far, so have we,” he said. “Our middle-order is very strong. Everyone is performing well and if we stick to the basics and our game plan we can win the final.”
Semi-final 1: Hong Kong 123 all out in 34.4 overs. Singapore 125-2 in 24 overs. Singapore won by eight wickets.
Semi-final 2: Nepal 127-8 in 34 overs. Malaysia 55 all out in 21.1 overs. Nepal won by 72 runs.