The form book was well and truly thrown out of the window in the fourth round of the ICC World Cricket League Division Five as Singapore blew Group B wide open with a 69-run win over Afghanistan. With Jersey, USA and Nepal booking their semi-final places, it left Afghanistan and Singapore battling for the remaining spot.
Afghanistan had been expected to maintain their unbeaten record against Singapore and, in a 30-over match, they appeared to be on course when they bowled Singapore out for 145. But in reply Afghanistan were skittled for 76, Chris Janik producing outstanding figures of 5 for 9 off just 3.2 overs.
"It feels great, although it is all about the team. Afghanistan don't lose every single game so it is a great win for us, especially since the game yesterday was rained off" Janik said adding "for a small country like Singapore with four million people it would be absolutely fantastic for us [to reach WCL Division Four]".
Taj Malik, coach of the Afghanistan team was extremely disappointed with the performance and believed the damp Jersey conditions were unfavourable to his side. "The weather has caused a lot of problems for us. We are never sure when we will start and whether the matches are reduced in overs," said Malik. "The weather is the enemy of the Afghanistan cricket team."
But he still believes that his side is capable of qualifying for the semi-finals, although they will face a massive test against Jersey tomorrow knowing that even a win will not guarantee them a place in the top four. "I have told the guys they are still in the tournament and if we want to get a place in the semi-final then tomorrow is do or die."
The equation is further complicated by the washout of Singapore's game against Japan on Sunday which might be replayed on Thursday, the official rest day.
In other matches today, USA skipper Steve Massiah helped his side into the semi-finals of the competition with a solid all-round performance. Massiah was in excellent form with both bat and ball in a comprehensive six-wicket win over Germany to ensure that his side remains unbeaten at this event. Bowling first USA dismissed Germany for 104, with Massiah taking 2 for 11, before they reached their target with 4.5 overs to spare in a 33-over per side game.
Nepal joined the USA in ensuring a top two place in Group A with a comfortable 137-run win over Vanuatu, although once again it may have been slightly disappointed with its batting performance. Mahesh Chhetri made 65 and Mahaboob Alam scored 34 as Nepal struggled to reach 220 for 9 in 46 overs in another game which had been reduced due to a delayed start. But once again Nepal's bowling helped them recover and they never looked in any trouble as they bowled out Vanuatu for 83, with Paras Khadka the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 26. Nepal play the USA tomorrow to decide who finishes top of Group A.
In Group B, Ryan Driver and Peter Gough were the heroes for Jersey as they coasted to a seven-wicket win over Botswana. "Four out of four ... I couldn't ask for anything more. We've got Afghanistan next so I hope we keep our winning run going and make it five from five," said skipper Matt Hague. Another disciplined bowling performance, which saw Ryan Driver (3 for 10), Tony Carlyon (2 for 12) and Andy Dewhurst (2 for 19) share the wickets, dismissed Botswana for 66. And although Jersey didn't look entirely comfortable, Peter Gough's outstanding run with the bat continued as he made an unbeaten 39 not out.
Hague admitted that he was looking forward to the challenge of taking on Afghanistan but believed his side had nothing to be afraid of. "We haven't looked at them that much but looking at their scores they seem to quite go quite hard, but we fear nobody at the moment," he said.
There was a thrilling tie between Japan and Bahamas in another game which was reduced overs due to bad weather, with Japan narrowly failing to reach their target of 116 with a run out off the final ball of the match as they desperately tried to gain the second run that would have sealed the win.
Mozambique registered an outstanding win over Norway by three wickets to gain their first victory of the tournament.