A beautiful last match day at the end of the tournament, with wins for both my favoured sides. The bittersweet taste on the German lips has intensified even more, while Kuwait have all reasons in the world to throw a cracking party tonight!
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC match report and post-match statements]
|Hisham (batting against Germany)|
I am utterly pleased to report that Kuwait have easily won the final against Nigeria and are taking the trophy home! It was a match I was following with eagle eyes, the battle of the two elephants, and while Kuwait had won the first encounter with the Africans, after losing against us they could have easily slipped against Nigeria as well.
But Kuwait showed a disciplined and focused performance. Unfortunately Sibtain and Hisham Mirza couldn't score, but Irfan Bhatti announced his return to the runs with a handy 60, and a wagging tail provided the Kuwaitis with a total they were able to defend comfortably. The prodigal young left arm fast bowler Mohammad Murad bowed out of the tournament with a fabulous 4-20, Saad Khalid and Azmatullah Nazeer took two each.
Kuwait have shared a long road with us from the beginning of WCL Div. 8 last year to the final day of WCL Div. 7, and while we were the only team to beat them, they defeated the two African sides when it counted, deservedly edged ahead of us and will surely cause a turmoil in Division 6 as well. I am wishing the desert warriors, captain Hisham and his talented team mates, all the best on their march through the divisions, and expect to hear a lot more good news from them in the near future.
Playoff for rank 3: Botswana v Germany
|Outstanding captain's knock by Asif Khan|
Dear god, that was our most laborious victory of the whole cup! But our winless streak against Botswana has ended! Furthermore we finally won a toss; not that it mattered, because we were batting first again anyway ;)
Tarun Rawat replaced Kashif Haider for this match, no Ashwin Prakash though, which left me grumbling for a bit. Tarun did not embarrass himself and added the third-highest score to the German total. Interestingly Farooq Ahmed opened the batting today and what shall I say, the poor bloke shouldn't have read my blog.... this whole Boom Boom business obviously got to him a little and after a short, noisy rampage he departed for 21. Pitifully Milan and André couldn't contribute a lot today, but since the 8th of May is also known as "Day of the Indian Batsman" in large parts of the world, captain Asif Khan and Rishi "the legend" Pillai took over, and the rest of the innings is history: after exactly 100 balls Asif Khan celebrated a century as precisely timed and elaborately constructed as a Swiss clockwork, eight fours and two sixes had been enriched with a lot of fine running and interdigitated impressively with Rishi's wonderful 67 off 69, and after Shakeel Hassan had finished the innings for Germany, Botswana faced the challenge to exceed a whopping 269 runs by at least one run in order to beat us for the third time in a row.
But now raise the curtain for the big Rana-Javed & Ehsan show!!
"No... wait a minute... not just yet... no, no... not yet... oops... 14 wides in ten overs... Botswana 64-0... hello? Could we have some typical early German inroads please? Oh I understand, Botswana are trying to pull off another BOT v NOR today, and we are destined to look on as they are attempting to reach the target for the loss of two wickets. Sigh."
At that point I honestly thought the autobahn had got even flatter, deader and unbowlsier than in the first innings... can an artificial wicket get flat and dead actually? While I was still trying to adjust my confused brain to the new situation of our precious opening pair remaining wicketless for many, Rajeev Vohra came on steaming out of his ears and nostrils, lowered his horned forehead and drilled his angry antlers into Botswana's Sehwag, Faisal Rana (33). One down, nine to go. Vohra again the man to apply the important cut. My appreciation for him increases with each over he bowls; you realise this when you impatiently demand his re-introduction into the attack.
|Rana-Javed Iqbal, best bowler of WCL Div. 7|
18-176, avg 9.77, econ 3.27, SR 17.8
But Botswana showed us their shark teeth and kept galloping onward without even turning a hair. Asking rate? What asking rate? It took until run no. 125 and the interference of the incredible Farooq Ahmed, until the next wicket tumbled, the dangerous wicket-keeper Sequeira (24) had to walk back to the dugout. However, the second opener Noor Ahmad had put his tent up at the crease and invited his family for a little picnic, there was nothing our attackers could do against his stubborn resistance. The new batsman Motlanka however didn't feel like having a sandwich and Shakeel Hassan claimed his wicket after just 4 runs. Botswana were 130-3 after the 27th over, there were plenty of runs to score yet, and everyone settled around Noor's tent for an increasingly extended family dinner.
Except for Rana-Javed. At 180-3 he removed Noor and his tribe with brute force, and an emotional tear rolled down my face, since I had been imploring him desperately not to leave this match with empty hands. He sooooo deserved to take wickets in his last Div. 7 appearance, just think of all the hard yards he had done for Germany in this tournament! Him taking out Botswana's top-scorer (74), when I had already started to sort of give up any hopes of stopping them, proved that sometimes reality has a strange, beautiful sense of poesy about it.
Still, Botswana had six wickets left and less than 100 runs to get, Noor's departure however lit up my mind and I started to believe that from here on we could still turn the match around if we held on to it now, and Shakeel had tasted blood. He took the next two batsmen out in quick succession, and at 183-6 our chances had increased dramatically. Although Botswana's lower middle order and tail were determined to torment the German supporters some more, Germany wanted it badly, you could smell it in the air (even over here hehe), Rana-Javed Iqbal sent the Botswana skipper Akrum Chand on his way for a 3-ball duck, the second beautiful wicket for our selfless workhorse from Sialkot, and after Farooq, the mighty mighty Farooq, who bowled at a sensational economy rate of 3.11 in this runfest today, had removed the last recognised batsman, Rajeev Vohra pocketed the remaining two wickets to end Botswana's and my agony.
Playoff for rank 5: Norway v Japan
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Sadly Japan couldn't win their last match either, Div. 7 is simply a level too high for them still, although they showed a very spirited effort in chasing Norway's 225. They got bogged down by the Norwegian bowlers, but Patrick Giles-Jones made an admirable 68*, and I think there is hope for Japan's future. On the Norwegian side a certain Shahid A. (yes, that guy) made 37 and took three wickets, while to my indignation Ehetsham-ul-Haq had been dropped for the match!!! Can you believe it! Since both Norway and Japan got relegated to Div. 8 they will have a chance to pit their strengths against each other again, with our old mates from Vanuatu and Zambia, if I remember correctly. Good luck, friends!
That's all from me for today, perhaps I'll add some more general retrospective thoughts and a little outlook into the future later. Germany's victory against Botswana will have them ruing their narrow defeat against the hosts in the group stage even more, and I imagine that the odd player will bite his own backside in grumpiness, and the question of what could have been will be floating around in our minds like a grey cloud for a fair while. But we have shown what sort of wood we are made of, "Don't mess with the Germs" is the message we have sent out to our fellow participants! So we can take a lot of positives from this competition and I hope the German camp will travel home equally satisfied.