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Saudi Arabia and Bahrain win through ACC Challenger Cup

Through the competition, both Gulf sides were incredibly dominant.

Favorites entering the tournament In the first ACC Challenger Cup, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain both finished first in their respective groups without losing a game, and they then defeated Bhutan and Thailand in the semifinal matches to earn a spot in the inaugural ACC Premier Cup. Saudi Arabia eventually won the inaugural edition of the new third-tier 50-over competition of the ACC by trouncing Bahrain by ten wickets in the final.

Saudi Arabia was particularly savage in their destruction of Group B foes Indonesia, Thailand, and Burma, despite the fact that both Gulf sides were remarkably dominant throughout the game. The tournament’s top scorer Padmakar Surve’s 73-ball 63 in the tournament’s opening match helped Indonesia reach 117 all out, with Saudi taking exactly half their allotted overs to chase for the loss of two wickets. Indonesia was the only team to post a triple-digit score against the Saudis throughout the competition. The victories kept getting greater from there; the next match was a nine-wicket victory over Thailand, which was accomplished in 15.4 overs after the hosts had been skittled for 80. The Saudis then scored 424-7 in the opening innings of their last group match against Myanmar, with Ahmed Baladraf taking 4-29 and Abdul Manan Ali scoring 102* at the top of the order before retiring hurt. Myanmar was bowled out for 97.

Thailand and Indonesia would also defeat Burma handily, with Daniel Jacobs scoring 152 runs off 143 balls to lead the hosts to a 272-run victory. In their encounter against Myanmar, Gede Arta took 5-23, and Surve hit a 91-ball 128 to help Indonesia win by a score of 195 runs. In the group’s lone competitive encounter, between the hosts and Indonesia, Thailand won by a narrow 4-wicket margin to advance to the semifinals.

Bahrain similarly breezed through Group A, defeating Bhutan, Iran, and the Maldives by significant majorities. Likewise, their opening game was the closest to being a contest as they chased down 105 against Bhutan while down by three wickets before Shabaz Badar’s 144-ball 178 helped the Maldives defeat Bhutan by a whopping 292 runs. They advanced to the semifinals with ease after a decisive 10-wicket victory over Iran, knocking the Iranians out for 46 and chasing in just four overs. Nevertheless, Group A saw a more competitive race for second place. Every other team managed to win, with the Maldives holding on to 157 against Iran in their opening match despite eye-catching left-arm spinner Zahed Afarain taking five wickets, Iran defeating Bhutan by fifty runs in their subsequent match, and Bhutan advancing to the semifinals on net run rate after defeating the Maldives by four wickets in the group’s final low-scoring thriller.

In the first semifinal, Saudi Arabia easily defeated Bhutan. Waqar Ul-unbeaten Hasan’s 41 helped Saudi to a nine-wicket victory, ensuring their qualification for the ACC Premier Cup and a spot in the championship. Ishtihaq Ahmad took 4-7 as Bhutan wilted for 62. In the other semifinal, Thailand appeared to have Bahrain on the ropes as Jandre Coetzee’s 4-18 caused Bahrain to struggle to reach 169 all-out. However, the hosts were unable to take advantage of Zeeshan Abbas taking a four-fer of his own as the Thais disintegrated to 91 all-out, and Bahrain secured the second qualification berth.

The lopsided results, which were not all that shocking, highlighted the difference in experience between the teams in the fifty-over format and the emergence of the Gulf nations from lesser echelons of Asian cricket. Thought to be a rising star, Bahrain had a winning record versus Saudi Arabia in the shorter format, so the rout in the final came as less of a surprise. The opening spinners Atif Ur-Rehman and Ishtiaq Ahmad tore through the batting order in the event that the Saudis delivered another humiliating defeat, though, as a shell-shocked Bahrain lost eight wickets for just six runs. Abdul Majid led Bahrain with a score of 7, and 11 extras made up the greatest portion of the final total of 26. Waqar Ul Hassan and Abdul Waheed, Saudi Arabia’s opening pair, needed just four overs to surpass the target and win the Challenger Trophy, setting the stage for the upcoming ACC Premier Cup, which will be hosted in Nepal in late April.


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