Kuwait and Germany have secured promotion to World Cricket League Division Seven and will meet in the final of the Division Eight tournament after winning their semi-final encounters against Zambia and Vanuatu, respectively. There is little doubt that they have been the two best teams at the competition, Kuwait powered by the strength of their fast-bowling attack and Germany's batsmen setting up a series of winning totals, and although Kuwait have the home advantage and start as slight favourites, a fascinating encounter awaits.
Vanuatu and Zambia will play each other on Friday to decide which of them will remain in Division Eight and which will be relegated back to the regional tournaments alongside the already relegated Bhutan, Suriname, Gibraltar and Bahamas.
Kuwait have not come close to losing a match in this tournament, but were given their biggest scare yet at Kuwait City as a spirited Zambian side fought back after they had been rolled over for 64. Every Zambian bowler picked up at least one wicket, with Gladson and Godfrey Kandela picking up two each, as Kuwait slipped to 54 for 7 in their chase. Gladson Kandela, in his first senior tour since graduating from the Under-19 captaincy, has emerged as a reliable opening bowler and started Kuwait's wobble by removing Irfan Bhatti in his first over.
After captain Hisham Mirza was removed by Sharif Yousuf, Kandela clean-bowled Abid Chaudry to reduce the home team to 17 for 3. Wickets continued to tumble, and when Godfrey Kandela and left-arm spinner Mohmed Mitha picked up a wicket apiece in consecutive overs to have Kuwait tottering at 54 for 7, a Zambian win that had seemed unthinkable suddenly seemed a distinct possibility. But Saad Khalid and Mohammad Murad, who are more used to wreaking havoc as Kuwait's new-ball pair, kept their heads and saw the side home.
Khalid and Murad's efforts have had a great influence on Kuwait's progress through this tournament, and this match was no different. Murad, who picked up four wickets against both Bhutan and Suriname, went one better today as his 5 for 15 helped demolish Zambia's batsmen. He started the rot by removing both openers in his first spell, before returning to rip through the lower order as the Zambians were bowled out in the 29th over. Both he and Khalid will be a daunting prospect for Germany's batsmen in the competition final on Friday.
"We've worked really hard as a side for this tournament and to know we're now heading to Division 7 is a great feeling for all the team," said captain Mirza after the match. "I hope tomorrow we can do the people of Kuwait proud by beating Germany and claiming the tournament trophy. Zambia tested us today and we need to make sure we learn from the mistakes we made batting today and must come back stronger tomorrow for the finals."
In the other promotion play-off Germany prevailed over Vanuatu at the Sulabiya Ground, easing to a 92-run victory. Kashif Haider, whose remarkable eight-wicket spell set up the win over Bahamas, ensured Farooq Ahmed's strong effort with the bat didn't go to waste as he derailed Vanuatu's pursuit of 186 with four cheap wickets.
Opening bowlers Rana-Javed Iqbal and Ehsan Latif made the initial incision before legspinner Kashif and offspinner Shakeel Hassan scythed through the middle and lower order as Vanuatu were bowled out for 93 in the 35th over. Germany's usually-reliable batsmen had also been given a torrid time by Vanuatu's bowlers, allrounder Patrick Matautaava leading the pack with 3 for 27. Germany had Ahmed to thank for their respectable total as the left-hander, who came to the crease with the score at 78 for 4, struck an 89-ball 79 to set up a promotion-earning win.
"It feels fantastic to know we'll be travelling to Botswana next year for Division 7," said German captain Asif Khan. "To have won every game so far in this tournament is brilliant and I hope tomorrow we can round off a great week with a win over Kuwait to make it a clean sweep.
"Vanuatu tested us today and credit must got to Farooq Ahmed who stood up to the strong bowling attack to make 79. While I must also mention another fine performance by Kashif Haider who made sure we dismissed Vanuatu for 93 and claimed victory."
Kieron Ferrary edged to the top of the tournament's run-scoring tables with a second half-century - to go with his hundred against Zambia - as Gibraltar beat Bhutan by 56 runs at the Hubara Ground. Ferrary lashed eight fours and a six in his 56, and his effort was built upon by Mark Bacarese and Ross Harkins, who also passed fifty to take Gibraltar to an imposing 279 for 7.
Bhutan have had a series of thrashings inflicted upon them in this tournament, but to their credit they fought hard with the bat in this match to challenge Gibraltar's bowlers. After man-of-the-match Bacarese added to his half-century with three top-order wickets, Jigme Singye's half-century helped hold the middle order together as he shared in a 90-run stand with captain Tshering Dorji. Once they were removed, Lobzang Yonten kept up the fight with a 35-ball 38 but wickets continued to fall regularly at the other end and Bhutan were bowled out in the final over.
In the final game of the day, Suriname secured a win over Bahamas at the Unity Ground after Troy Dudnath smashed his way to 61-ball 111 not out, the 20-year-old allrounder helping his side to 269 for 7. Bahamas captain Greg Taylor once again led his side from the front, scoring 78, but despite efforts from Shanaka Perera and Jermaine Adderley the side fell short of victory by 36 runs.