The opening day saw members of the Kuwait Cricket Association led by President Haider Farman, Vice President Faisal Al Marzouk, Head of Council Mahmoud Bastaki and Director General Sajid Ashraf welcoming ICC officials along with the teams to the upgraded facility.
President Haider Farman thanked the ICC for giving Kuwait a grand opportunity to showcase its skills both on and off the field.
Kuwait, having won the toss and elected to bat, made the worst possible start losing two wickets off consecutive deliveries in the first over, including that of captain Kashif Sharif, to leave them reeling at 1-2 against underdogs Maldives. Opener Usman Waheed was then joined by Ali Zaheer and the two steadied the ship for Kuwait, putting together a caution but vital 60 run partnership, firmly sowing the seeds of recovery and laying the foundations for a late innings assault. The wickets of Ali Zaheer and Usman Waheed in quick succession brought the hard-hitting Mohammad Asghar’s to the crease along with Ravija Sandaruwan. Asghar, after an initial consolidation period, teed off scoring 66 runs of just 38 balls to inject some much-needed impetus into the Kuwait innings. He was well supported by Ravija who rotated the strike before also finishing with a flourish, ending on 29 off 16 as the two powered Kuwait to 170 in the allocated 20 overs.
Chasing a target of 171 for victory; Maldives struggles to get going against a disciplined bowling effort, losing wickets at regular intervals throughout the innings and eventually succumbing for 68, as Kuwait ran out winners by a commanding 102 runs. Seamer Imran Ali bowled an exceptional spell taking 5 wickets and conceding just 2 runs, including a Hat-Trick, to seal victory and earn himself the Man of the Match award.
In the day’s other early game, Qatar took on pre-tournament favorites UAE, at the Entertainment City Ground in Doha. Qatar, having won the toss and elected to bat, looked solid through the innings but the loss of wickets at key intervals prevented the innings from building any momentum. They eventually finished on 143 off the 20 overs, led by a 26 ball 40 from Faisal Javed Khan, Tamoor Sajjad’s 31 and a fine finish by Nouman Sarwar. In response, the UAE rarely looked troubles as a fine innings of 71 from 45 balls from Captain Rohan Mustafa left them to a comfortable 6 wicket victory with 11 balls to spare. The UAE skipper also bagging the Man of the Match award as the UAE lived up to their favourites tag, laying down a marker for the other teams in the process. After the game, Mustafa spoke “I am delighted to bag the first man of the match award” as he hopes to continue this run of form through the tournament. UAE coach and former England International Douggie Brown was pleased to be off to a winning start and said “looking forward to continuing the winning streak”.
In the afternoon game at Doha; Bahrain took on Saudi Arabia with the former winning the toss and electing to bat first. The Bahrain innings however never got going, the lack of regular partnerships leaving them all-out on 106 off 19.5 overs, with Saudi’s excellent bowling lineup led by Khawar Abbas and Usman Ali who picked up 7 wickets between themselves. Saudi Arabia in response chased down the total at canter; winning by 7 wickets with 4.5 overs to spare. Khawar Abbas was adjudged the man of the match for his spell of 3-20 and said “happy to a good start in tournament, focused on captain’s plan and doing the basics right”.
The tournament continues to hot up tomorrow with hosts Kuwait taking on Qatar at the Sulaibiya cricket ground on a day which also sees Maldives taking on Bahrain and the UAE facing Saudi Arabia at Entertainment City Cricket Ground.