Left-arm spin twins Zeeshan Abbas and Abdul Majid Malik combined to take seven wickets as Bahrain defeated hosts Thailand by 78 runs yesterday in the first semi-final of the 2023 ACC Men’s Challenger Cup at the AIT cricket ground in Bangkok to march into the final.
Abbas took four for 33 off seven overs while Malik snapped up three for 16 off 7.4 overs as Thailand, chasing a 170-run target, collapsed to 91 all out off 26.4 overs.
Medium-pacers Ali Dawood and Sathaiya Veerapathiran had started the rot earlier as they took three early wickets between them to reduce Thailand to nine for three in the fifth over.
Abbas and Malik then took over after a 48-run fourth wicket stand between Robert Raina (28) and Jandre Coetzee (26) in 10 overs threatened to take the game away from Bahrain.
Unable to deal with the spinners’ guile and flight, Thailand lost their last seven wickets for just 34 runs off 10.5 overs as Abbas and Malik ran rampant.
Earlier, batting first after Thailand captain Akshaykuma Yadav won the toss and sent them in, Bahrain subsided to 24 for three in the seventh over and slid further to 118 for five in the 33rd before Sohail Ahmed, who top-scored with a fine 64 off 115 deliveries, guided them to their eventual, below-par total of 169 all out with 4.1 of their allotted 50 overs still remaining.
Ahmed, who struck two fours and six in his battling innings, was eighth out with the score 166 at the end of 45 overs. The Bahrain innings folded just five balls later, with Malik, who scored 17 in a 30-run eighth wicket partnership, and Ali Dawood falling in quick succession.
Bahrain will now face Saudi Arabia – who decimated Bhutan by nine wickets in the other semi-final after bowling them out for just 62 runs – in the final tomorrow.
Regardless of who wins the final, the two teams have guaranteed themselves a place each in next month’s ACC Men’s Premier Cup – the winner of which will head to the Asia Cup in September.