Saudi Arabia win a slightly hollow victory
It's not been a happy few months for the Asian Cricket Council.
In December its Under-15 Elite Cup in Nepal was reduced to near farce after eight of the ten participants were thrown out for fielding over-age players - as many as eight in a 15-man squad. Last week the ACC Under-19 Challenge Cup took place in Thailand, but with only four of the original ten countries taking part. There has been no official explanation for the withdrawals, the last of which, Iran's, came two days before the tournament started on January 12.
The organisers were left with four teams - China, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia and Maldives - who played each other in a round-robin format and then, rather embarrassingly, all four then progressed into semi-finals.
Saudi Arabia dominated the round-robin stage, winning all three of their matches and only being run remotely close by Maldives in their opening game. China, however, lost by large margins, underlining how far their cricket has to come despite bullish noises from those running world cricket.
In the semi-finals, Saudi Arabia followed their ten-wicket drubbing of China earlier on with an equally impressive 191-run rout, while Bhutan beat Maldives by six runs in the game of the tournament. Maldives appeared set for victory but lost their last five wickets for five runs in 11 balls.
In the final, Saudi Arabia easily beat Bhutan by 59 runs. Saudi Arabia, who won the toss, rattled up 247, a good score considering with 16 overs to go they were 131 for 5. Man of the Match Hussain Anwar triggered the late onslaught with a 68-ball 62, including two sixes. Bhutan were never up with the asking rate and only one of their top six passed 12.
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