Opener Virandeep Singh scored a magnificent 96 off just 54 balls to lead Malaysia to a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Bahrain at the UKM-YSD Cricket Oval in Bangi yesterday in the 2022-23 Malaysia Quadrangular T20I Series.
This was the hosts’ second win over the kingdom’s team in the tournament, following the 11-run victory in the series’ opening game last Thursday.
Singh peppered eight fours and five sixes as he partnered with Zubaidi Zulkifle, who made a 38-ball 65, in an opening stand of 156 off just 13.4 overs, enabling Malaysia to overhaul Bahrain’s total of 179 for five with ease.
Zulkifle hit five fours and four sixes before being bowled by Bahrain captain Sarfaraz Ali with 24 runs required for victory and 38 balls left.
Singh, who looked set to get his maiden T20I century, eventually fell four runs short of the milestone when he holed out to Shahid Mahmood off medium-pacer Rizwan Butt with Malaysia 176 for two in the 17th over.
Ali, then, accounted for Syed Aziz to make it 178 for three after two balls in the 18th over. But Malaysia needed only two more runs to win at that point and new man Mohamed Arief duly smacked Ali for four through midwicket to bring up the hosts’ fourth successive victory in the tournament and maintain their position as table-leaders with eight points.
Earlier, Ali opted to bat first after winning the toss and hammered a swift 34 off 32 balls after left-arm spinner Fitri Sham took the wickets of opener Prashant Kurup and one-drop Imran Anwar off consecutive deliveries to leave Bahrain tottering at five for two in the second over.
Sohail Ahmed, in at number four, kept his captain company in a rapid 42-run stand for the third wicket. But, when Ali fell to a catch in the deep off medium-pacer Sharvin Muniandy with Bahrain 48 for three at the end of the eighth over, Ahmed assumed the senior role in a sparkling 47-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Haider Butt off just 37 balls.
Left-arm medium-pacer Rizwan Haider ended the stand by castling Ahmed for a well-played 38 off 30 balls with Bahrain 94 for four in the 15th over and Ahmer Bin Nasir walked in to join Butt.
Any hopes Malaysia had of making further inroads into the Bahrain batting line-up quickly dissipated as Nasir, who made his T20I debut just a month ago in Oman, and Butt smashed 63 runs off 23 balls to propel their team towards a competitive total.
Having hit four sixes and a boundary off the 19 balls he faced, Nasir was eventually run out for a brilliant 44 with Bahrain 157 for five at the end of the 19th over.
However, Butt, who finished with a superb unbeaten 49 off 32 balls, wasn’t done yet and he hit three sixes off the final over of the innings which yielded 22 runs to take Bahrain to what they thought was an imposing total.
However, as it turned out, it was Singh and Zulkifle’s day to dominate.
Now in third place in the four-team table with four points, behind Malaysia and Qatar, who also have four points but have a superior net run-rate (NRR), Bahrain will have to win both their remaining matches to have any hope of making the December 23 final.
They will play last-placed Singapore, who have lost all their four matches thus far, tomorrow and take on Qatar, who will play the hosts in the afternoon game tomorrow, in a crucial game on Thursday which will decide which of the two teams goes through to the final with Malaysia.