Twenty20 is a game of surprises and a higher rank in this format of the game is no guarantee of victory. That’s exactly the lesson that Scotland learnt on Friday when they were handed a dramatic 2-run defeat by Singapore in the opening match of the ICC T20 World Cup qualifier in Dubai.
Put into bat first, Singapore were in trouble right away with opener Rohan Rangarajan (5 off 4 balls) falling in the first over itself.
Things got worse when Tim David (1 off 2 balls) was sent packing by Safyaan Sharif at the start of the very next over. Singapore were in all sorts of trouble at 7 for 2 at that stage.
That’s when Surendran Chandramohan and Aritra Dutta dug in to help stabilise the innings. Dutta smashed his way to 32 off just 15 balls before Scotland’s Hamza Tahir had him bowled.
But a solid half century by Chandramohan, an ardent fan of big hitting Virender Sehwag, meant that when he was dismissed for 51 off 55 balls, Singapore had reached a respectable 129 for 4.
Quickfire middle order knocks by Manpreet Singh (26 off 26 balls) and Janak Prakash (20 off 11 balls) ensured that Singapore managed a very defendable score of 168/6 in their allotted 20 overs.
Scotland began their chase well with openers George Munsey and skipper Kyle Coetzer piling on the misery for Singapore’s bowlers.
Sidhant Singh broke the opening partnership in the eight over when he dismissed Munsey (46 off 25 balls).
Singh struck again, getting rid of Ollie Hairs (14 off 10 balls) with Scotland at 87/2 in the tenth over.
Coetzer (38 off 36 balls), Calum MacLeod (44 off 31 balls) and Tom Sole (11 off 6 balls) ensured that, despite losing wickets, Scotland were always looking comfortable in their chase and it seemed as if it would be an easy win for the top ranked side of the tournament.
With 24 needed off 16, and Sole and MacLeod on strike, Scotland were scoring easy twos. David put a stop to that when he ran out Sole off his own bowling at the end of the 18th over and when it came down to the last 6 balls of the match, Scotland needed a mere 8 runs.
Singapore skipper Amjad Mahboob stepped up to bowl the final over with Sharif facing. He started with a dot, followed by a single to bring MacLeod on strike.
The 30-year-old right hander tried to power the next ball over the ropes but couldn’t clear David at deep midwicket, falling for 44. A two by Sharif brought it down to 5 needed off 2 balls and suddenly Singapore were very much back in the game.
Sharif chipped the ball in the air and a stunning diving catch by David had the Scot heading back to the pavilion.
That brought Josh Davey on strike with four runs needed off the last ball to tie the match and take it to a super over or a six to win in. But stellar bowling by Mahboob meant that Davey could only manage 2 off the last ball, handing Singapore a dramatic 2-run win over a side ranked 10 places above them in the ICC T20 men’s rankings.
It was an incredible victory for Singapore, who last month beat Zimbabwe in a home T20 tri-series, to attain their first ever win against full ICC member team.
Singapore will play Bermuda next, on Sunday.
ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers format
The T20 World Cup Qualifiers has 14 sides competing for six spots on offer at the main tournament next year. The 14 teams, divided into two groups of seven, play a total of 42 league games.
The two group-toppers qualify directly for the T20 World Cup.
Teams finishing second and third face off in playoffs with the two winners taking up two more spots in the World Cup.
For the last two spots, the losers from the two playoffs will face the fourth-placed teams in the groups. The winners of those games go through.