UAE and Bahrain have secured the final two places in the semi-finals of the Asian regional final as part of qualification for next year's Men's T20 World Cup in West Indies and the USA.
The UAE secured their place this morning when they took on Hong Kong. Batting first they scored 176-6 from their 20 overs, Basil Hameed's unbeaten 51 from 29 balls their top score. He was outscored by Anshy Rath in the Hong Kong reply as he contributed 59 but Hong Kong fell short of their target, scoring 154-8 and losing by 22 runs.
The other morning match was a dead-rubber as far as determining semi-final places goes, but ended up having major consequences for qualification. Oman were put into bat and scored 145-9 from their 20 overs, Zeeshan Maqsood top scoring with 32. Despite a valiant effort from lower order batter Bibek Yadav, Nepal fell short after an exciting final over.
Needing 25 from the last over, Yadav hit three sixes - interupted by a second ball wide - to start the over before he was caught from the fourth ball. With seven needed from the final two deliveries, number 11 Abinash Bohara ran a single to get Karan KC - who has form for pulling off miracles with the bat - on strike for the final ball with six needed. Unfortunately for Nepal he was caught and Nepal lost by five runs.
The implications were that Nepal finished second in the group and will now play UAE tomorrow in a winner takes all semi-final, rather than facing off against a weaker team from the other group as they would have hoped. It's a shame that only one of these two talented sides can be at the World Cup but that's associate cricket for you - can't afford any slip-ups.
The afternoon Group A game had no impact on semi-final places with both Singapore and Malaysia already elimanted. Nonetheless, matches between these two sides are keenly fought encounters, and Malaysia set out their stall with a total of 198-4, Ahmad Faiz scoring 71 and Sharvin Muniandy contributing an unbeaten 60.
In Singapore's reply they were 112-2 at one point with Aritra Dutta having contributed 53, but collapsed, losing their last eight wickets for 26 runs in 5.5 overs, losing by 60 runs. Muhammad Amir was the leading bowler with 5-16.
The afternoon Group B game saw Bahrain take on Kuwait with the latter needing a big win to move past Bahrain and Hong Kong on net run rate, Hong Kong needing them to win big, but not too big in order for them to qualify and Bahrain hoping for either a win or a narrow defeat.
Bahrain batted first and scored 158-9 from their 20 overs, Imran Anwar top scoring with 37. Kuwait lost both openers cheaply but Usman Patel scored 64 from 34 balls to get their reply back on track. Captain Mohammed Aslam scored an unbeaten 36 from 20 balls to secure a four wicket win with 3.3 overs to spare. Fortunately for Bahrain, the chase was slow enough for them to remain second in the table and progress to the semi-finals where they will play Oman in a game where the winners qualify for the World Cup.
In a typically bone-headed move by the ICC, both semi-finals take place simultaneously tomorrow. Even more stupid is the decision to have the UAE v Nepal semi-final at the smaller Mulpani ground as opposed to the Tribhuvan University ground that regularly sees crowds over 10,000 for Nepal games, even on working days.
The impact is such that the Cricket Association of Nepal is urging fans to stay home rather than risk swamping the Mulpani ground with a crowd it can't cope with. Quite why we can't have a great semi-final double-header in front of a huge TU Ground crowd is beyond me, and is yet another example of the ICC's poor promotion of their associate tournaments.