Following four wins in our final six matches in India and therefore full of optimism, we moved onto nearby Pakistan. That optimism soon evaporated however as we regressed horribly. In our first three matches, we simply didn’t put enough runs on the board, struggling to reach even a run-a-ball. This was particularly frustrating as we did manage to take a few wickets in each match but were consistently short of posting competitive totals.
We then floundered further, suffering heavy defeats in our next two games, struggling to chase bigger scores. That left us without a win in five matches at the halfway point of the competition. Japanese opening batsman Shoya Suma had yet to reach double figures despite playing all five games.
After yet another below par defeat when we once again barely crept over the hundred run mark, it was seventh time lucky when we secured a famous win in Punjab. We restricted the hosts to just 90-9 from their twenty overs on a minefield of a surface. Egyptian slow-left-armer Mohamed El Mohamedy, who had done incredibly well to force his way back into the playing XI and bravely take on the responsibility of bowling in the powerplay, claimed astonishing figures of 4-1-6-2. Part time slow-left-armers Moses Okocha (4-0-19-2) and the much maligned Soma (4-1-7-1), backed up the effective slow-left-arm theme. Despite a slightly expensive final over from Cameroon quick bowler Ambroise Anguissa (1-0-13-0), we’d given ourselves a great chance of ending our rut. We’d also backed up our decision to bowl first so as to know what we needed to score. Icelandic gloveman Ogmundar Sigthorsson, having replaced Javier Jiminez behind the stumps, held five catches, completed one stumping and effected two run outs!
Our batsmen then backed up the team’s outstanding work with the ball. Run shy opening duo Soma and Mario Kuntz had actually both failed to make double figures in our first four matches. Following a slight recent improvement, the pair batted through the powerplay and recorded our first ever half-century opening stand. With the score on 55, Soma (21) edged behind but he’d laid the foundations and helped avoid any early wobbles. Vice-captain Kuntz (44*) and Phillipio (15*) saw us to a much needed and spirit lifting 9-wicket win. It really was a wonderful team performance and a huge relief to show those in Pakistan that we weren’t completely out of our depth!
What’s that saying about buses? After losing six in a row, we made it back-to-back victories with a home win against Islamabad. This time we batted first and made our highest score of the competition to date. The win against Punjab had clearly had a positive effect on our players as our batsmen came out with much greater intent than had been the case in the first half of the tournament. Phillipio (41) and Moses Okocha (26) led the way before Jamal Peters (18*), now batting in the middle order and captain Norshahrul Rashid (13*) lifted us to a decent total of 138-5.
We soon had the visitors in trouble at 16-2 before they fought back to 56-2 and 108-4. Off-spinner Wu Xu (2-23) bowled with great character and ability on the first occasion that he’d bowled from the off. All our bowlers kept their heads, including young Russian right-arm medium-pacer Roman Andreyushkin at the death. Despite having a bowling average of 123 coming into the match, he claimed 1-6 having bowled the seventeenth and nineteenth over. It was another excellent win after our torrid form in the early part of the competition.
Sadly we reverted to type in our penultimate match then made a right mess of the last couple of overs when batting first in our final match. We scored only three runs to finish on 123-8 which Khyber were able to knock off with plenty of deliveries to spare. Still, it was a far more competitive effort than only weeks prior.
Below are our statistical highlights from the competition:
Highest Team Total: 138-5 vs. Islamabad at Global Arena
Highest Partnership: 62 (3rd wicket) Phillipio (Brazil) and Moses Okocha (Nigeria) vs. Islamabad at Islamabad Stadium
Leading Run-scorer: Phillipio (Brazil) 181
Best Batting Average: Norshahrul Rashid (Malaysia) 50.33
Best Strike-rate: Norshahrul Rashid (Malaysia) 112.68
Best Batting Innings: Norshahrul Rashid (Malaysia) 53 not out vs. Punjab at Global Arena
Leading Wicket-taker: Mohamed El Mohamedy (Egypt) 8
Best Bowling Average: Moses Okocha (Nigeria) 13.20
Best Strike-rate: Moses Okocha (Nigeria) 12.00
Best Bowling Innings: Moses Okocha (Nigeria) 3-26 vs. Sindh at Global Arena
Most Dismissals: Ogmundar Sighthorsson (Iceland) 11 (10 catches/1 stumping)
Most Catches (Non wicketkeeper): Moses Okocha (Nigeria) 2
Next up we remain in Asia but for a far more exhaustive nine-team tournament in Bangladesh. We’ve got a strong contingent of spin bowlers, some talented all-rounders and a capable captain. However a number of specialists both in the batting and pace bowling front need to up their game soon. Maybe the conditions aren’t favourable for quick bowlers but our batsmen really have to find a way. Too often it’s been left to our skipper to lift us to a barely competitive score.