A brilliant bowling performance by their spin trio and an outstanding half-century by Meet Bhavsar spurred Kuwait to an eight-wicket victory with more than six overs to spare over Bahrain in their second match of the inaugural, six-team Gulf Cricket T20I Championship 2023 at the West End Park International Cricket Stadium in Doha last night.
With Kuwait chasing 124 to win, Bhavsar smashed an unbeaten 76 off only 49 balls, with six fours and four sixes, in an unbroken 125-run, third-wicket partnership with Usman Patel (43 not out) off a mere 12.5 overs to take his side to a comfortable win after they had been reduced to two for two in the first over of the innings.
Coming in at number three after medium-pacer Ali Dawood had accounted for opener Ravija Sandaruwan for nought off the second ball of the innings, Bhavsar shrugged off the loss of the other opener, Adnan Idrees, just four balls later and settled into the match-winning partnership with Patel, who was content to play second-fiddle.
The left-handed Bhavsar was in prime form and dominated the stand, treating pacemen and spinners alike with utter disdain as Kuwait raced to 36 for two after five overs and 86 for two after ten.
The Bahrain bowlers appeared completely clueless as the two Kuwaiti batsmen upped the tempo and probably heaved a collective sigh of relief when Bhavsar hit medium-pacer Rizwan Butt for his sixth boundary to bring up a comprehensive Kuwait win.
By contrast, Kuwait’s spinners had looked completely in control when they came on to bowl, first stemming the flow of runs after the Bahrain openers got off to a flying start and then striking crucial blows to leave their opponents tottering.
Leg-spinner Shiraz Khan finished with three for 12 off his four overs, slow left-armer Yasin Patel picked up two for 17 from his four and fellow left-armer and captain Mohammed Aslam returned the excellent figures of one for 11 from his four-over spell.
Between them, the three spinners conceded only 40 runs off 16 overs.
Earlier, only a career-best unbeaten 34 off just 13 balls by Rizwan Butt enabled Bahrain to avoid the ignominy of being bowled out for a sub-100 total after the kingdom’s side had slumped to 79 for eight after 17.3 overs.
Butt, whose previous highest T20I score was nine, came in to bat after the fall of the sixth wicket with Bahrain reduced to 72 for six in the 16th over and saw Ahmer Bin Nasir and Abdul Majid Abbasi both perish within two balls of each other to the left-arm spin of Yasin Patel in the 18th over.
Dawood, in at number 10, then smacked the last ball of Patel’s spell for six over midwicket before the Butt show started.
The tall fast bowler hit off-spinner Adnan Idrees for successive sixes off the first two balls of the 19th over, which yielded 19 runs, and then smote medium-pacer Shahrukh Quddus for two more maximums in the 20th over, which went for 17 runs.
Thanks to Butt’s swashbuckling knock, Bahrain added 36 runs off the last two overs of the innings and gave themselves some sort of total to defend, which had looked unlikely just 15 minutes earlier.
Yet,when the innings began, after Aslam won the toss and sent Bahrain in, the kingdom’s team looked like to make much more than the total they eventually ended up with.
Captain Umer Toor and Imran Ali started confidently, both hitting a six each off Parvindar Kumar’s medium-pace in the second over of the innings which went for 16 runs.
After five overs, Bahrain were 36 for no loss and probably looking for a total in excess of 150.
But a spectacular collapse ensued after Ali was caught behind off leg-spinner Khan for 20 with Bahrain 42 for one after 6.2 overs.
Khan claimed the wicket of Toor, leg-before for 27, in his next over and Bahrain were 54 for two in the ninth over.
That became 60 for five two overs later as Khan clean-bowled Fiaz Ahmed for four with Haider Butt and Imran Anwar both being run out in the space of three balls as Bahrain lost three wickets for one run after being 59/2 at one stage.
And, when Sathaiya Veerpathiran perished with the score 72 for six after 15.4 overs, Bahrain looked like they would struggle to cross the three-figure mark. It was eventually left to Rizwan Butt’s heroics to ensure that they did.
Kuwait have moved to the top of the table with four points from two consecutive wins while Bahrain languish at the bottom with no points after successive defeats in their first two games.
Bahrain will now play Saudi Arabia, who lost their first game on Friday to Kuwait by five wickets, tomorrow in a must-win game for both sides.
BRIEF SCORES: Kuwait 127 for two in 13.5 overs (Bhavsar 76 not out, U. Patel 43 not out, Ali Dawood 2/22) beat Bahrain 123 for nine in 20 overs (Rizwan Butt 34 not out, Shiraz Khan 3/12, Yasin Patel 2/17) by eight wickets.