Ahmed, 15, shows he's just the ticket with last wicket
Teenager Nadeem Ahmed made an auspicious debut for Hong Kong, who booked a berth in Sunday's final, in the Tuanku Ja'afar tournament with an eight-wicket victory over Thailand yesterday.
Ahmed starred right at the end of the match - serving up just desserts - when he grabbed the last wicket as Thailand were bowled out for 72 runs in 33 overs. He bowled only four overs, but in that short spell the 15-year-old left-arm, leg-spinner showed enough glimpses of both style and substance to lay claim to a solid future.
A nice loopy action and the confidence to give the ball plenty of air will surely make Ahmed a good investment for Hong Kong cricket. And his peers showed their appreciation by giving the youngster the honour of leading the team off of the field at the Selangor Turf Club.
'He was very, very good,' said skipper Rahul Sharma. 'We were up against a weak side in Thailand. But Nadeem's four overs were right on the spot and he was unafraid to flight the ball. For a 15-year-old, he showed a lot of maturity. This is the first time I'm seeing him play competitively and he impressed me.'
Coach Lal Jayasinghe, who has nurtured Ahmed through the younger age groups, was also pleased with his charge, who finished with one wicket for four runs from his four overs.
'I knew he had the confidence in him despite his tender age. And he proved it today. He is a player for the future, if not right now.'
The convincing victory was capped by an effortless run chase in only 12 overs thanks to a sterling knock from Manoj Cheruparambil, whose unbeaten 41 contained seven fours and a six and came off 39 balls If the 62-run victory in the opening match over Singapore was down to the batting of Dar, it was the turn of the bowlers to grab the limelight yesterday.
Sharma once again was in the thick of it all, taking four for seven off six overs to be named man of the match. It was a tough call because Cheruparambil also starred in the field with a flawless display of catching, accounting for four victims, three in the slips-gully region and one in the deep at square leg. But this effort plus the quickfire batting display failed to sway the judgment of the match referee, who awarded Sharma the trophy.
Sharma was quick to acknowledge Cheruparambil's efforts by giving him a consolatory handshake afterwards.
Hong Kong rested wayward strike bowler Khalid Khan and Jamshaid Khan. But their absence was not felt as Mohammed Zubair continued to bowl impressively. But luck was not with him as he failed to find the edge on a number of occasions and had to be happy with one wicket, caught brilliantly by Sher Lama, diving to his left at cover.
Youngsters Roy Lamsam and Kieran Kumaria showed their mettle too as they took their chances yesterday and each finishing with two wickets apiece in a competent display.
Only two Thai batsman managed to reach double figures and the sorry state of their innings could be summed up by the fact that they hit only one boundary.
Once again, Hong Kong's bowlers conceded a large number of wides, but they improved tremendously from their opening match in that they did not give away a single no-ball.
'It was a professional perfomance. Our target was to concede fewer than 100 runs and after we did that, we wanted to win quickly to boost our run rate,' said Sharma.