Kuwait, Germany go top with wins
Kuwait eased to their third resounding victory of the Division Eight tournament, crushing Bhutan by eight wickets in a match that lasted all of 20.4 overs. Kuwait's opening bowlers, right-handed Saad Khalid and left-armer Mohammad Murad, combined to skittle Bhutan for just 31 as no batsman made it to double figures and extras, with 10, provided the bulk of the scoring. Kuwait lost both openers in their chase, but the score had already reached 20 by the time they departed, and Abid Chaudry and Mohammad Akhudzada had little trouble knocking off the remaining runs in time for an early lunch.
Murad and Khalid had dished out the same treatment to Suriname in their opening match of the tournament, and are now sitting comfortably at the top of the wicket-takers' tables with 22 victims between them. Their pace proved simply too much for Bhutan's inexperienced batsmen as eight dismissals were either bowled or lbw. With Kuwait emerging as definite contenders to move up to Division Seven and beyond, Khalid and Murad - who, at 20, is the older of the two - will be vital to their future development.
"Today was another easy match for us just like the first day of the tournament against Suriname," said Khalid, who was Man of the Match for the second time this tournament. "My bowling just went right for me today, I'm not a selfish player I'm in it for the team and the fact I took so many wickets today is pleasing. We've only really been challenged by Vanuatu so I'm looking forward to our play-off game where hopefully we can be challenged a bit more."
Vanuatu scrapped to a four-wicket win over Suriname at the Doha Entertainment City Ground. Aby John's medium pace did the bulk of the damage to Suriname's top order after they had opted to bat first, his third wicket reducing them to 107 for 6. There was no lower-order fightback and Suriname crumbled for 139 in the 48th over.
Vanuatu didn't have it all their own way in their chase, however, as Suriname captain Shazam Ramjohn opened the bowling with Vishaul Singh's offspin and he responded with the early dismissals of both Lenica Natapei and Andrew Mansale. After Carlton Baker broke a 36-run third-wicket stand by bowling Jonathon Dunn, and opener Damian Smith was run out for 46, Vanuatu were 81 for 4 and tottering uneasily. But Simpson Obed and Patrick Matautaava responded admirably, and when both fell to Singh victory was almost in Vanuatu's grasp. It was left to Frederick Timakata and wicketkeeper Trevor Langa to finish the job, and Vanuatu now sit comfortably in second position behind Kuwait in Group A.
"It's always nice to come away with a victory and the team performed better today in the field and Patrick Matautaava was once again strong with bat and ball which is a positive thing," said Vanuatu coach Mark Coles. "We can't be complacent though, we face Germany on Thursday and they've proved to be very strong with the bat so we need make sure we keep out bowling tight and our fielding on target."
Suriname coach Kumar Rampat was disappointed but the loss but looked upon the positives. "We may not have won any of our group matches but as a team we have certainly improved since the first game of the tournament. We bowled well today and took some good catches," he said. "We now need to focus on the play-offs on Thursday, which is something we very much want to do."
Germany's batsmen, led by Milan Fernando and Asif Khan, had been the team's strongest weapon in the tournament so far, but against Bahamas at the Unity Ground it was the turn of a bowler to shine. After solid contributions from both Fernando and Khan, and a half-century for Rishi Pillai, had set up Germany's total of 258 Bahamas' opening pair of Gregory and Marc Taylor responded with an opening stand that had passed 80 in the 16th over.
But after Pillai removed the younger Taylor for 45, Kashif Haider, Germany's Pakistan-born legspinner, was brought on as third change and soon had a devastating impact. He scythed through the batting line-up, dismissing Nos. 5, 6 and 7 for ducks and ended the innings by having Julio Jemison stumped to finish with the remarkable figures of 8 for 25. The victory cemented Germany's position at the top of Group B, and they increasingly appear to be the only team capable of challenging Kuwait after the group stages.
"I haven't been taking too many wickets lately and to walk away with eight today and help my team to its third win is a great feeling," said Haider. "I just hope our good form continues ahead of Thursday's game against Vanuatu so that we can go onto qualify for Division 7 next year."
Christian Rocca's 99 eased the pain of Gibraltar's defeat to Germany on Sunday, and as the third round of matches brought a third defeat it was the turn of Kieron Ferrary to give Gibraltar's innings some honour as they slipped to a 91-run defeat to Zambia at the Hubara Ground. The 21-year-old Ferrary went to the crease as early as the 12th over as Gladson Kandela once again made early inroads into the top order, and reached a fluent hundred before falling in the final over for 105. Kandela picked up his fourth wicket of the match in the same over, dismissing Matthew Hunter second ball, to finish with 4 for 25.
Zambia's win had been set up by a solid performance from their batsmen, openers Allan Nsensha and Ashraf Lulat putting 166 in just over 30 overs. After they were nipped out by offspinner Mark Bacarese, the middle order kept up the tempo as each batsman managed to score at a-run-a-ball or better to finish with a match-winning total of 286 for 6.
"It's obviously disappointing to have not won any of our games here in Kuwait but we've got to remain positive and make sure we finish on a positive note," said Gibraltar captain Rocca. "I was particularly pleased with the performance of Kieron Ferrary today, he showed us he is definitely one for the future of Gibraltar cricket."
Tomorrow is a rest day with play resuming on Thursday with the play-offs.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo