With 19 runs to get off two overs and a well-set Calum MacLeod at the crease, all signs pointed to Scotland holding their nerve and avoiding slipping on a first-day banana skin at the T20 World Cup Qualifier. But Singapore captain Amjad Mahboob had other plans and got a little help from his friends to spark the tournament's first upset on Friday at the ICC Academy.
"Before the second-last over, we had 19 to defend," Mahboob said after the two-run win over Scotland. "I told [Janak Prakash] if you give me eight to ten runs, I am definitely going to win the match for Singapore. I had self-belief, confidence in me that I could do it and God helped me, and I did it."
While Mahboob got most of the limelight for defending eight off the final over, Prakash's role in the denouement was no less significant. The 19-year-old allrounder had scored a vital 20 off 11 balls at No. 6 to bolster Singapore late in the first innings. On the first ball of his second over, Kyle Coetzer's straight drive pinged Prakash just over the right eye, splitting open a sizable gash as blood poured onto the ground and physios from both teams ran out to assist.
But Prakash was able to get to his feet with a towel pressed against his head and walked off on his own power. It looked like he might not take any further part in the match, yet he was back on the field just 17 balls later with his head stitched up and wrapped in bandaging. Then he bravely came back into the attack and conceded 11 off the 19th. It set the stage for Mahboob to deny Scotland by claiming MacLeod and Safyaan Sharif to brilliant catches at deep midwicket by Tim David before a last-ball run out ended the match.
"I was very confident because this ground is not easy to hit boundaries," Mahboob said. "So I just bowled in the right areas. The first three balls I bowled with variations and that helped me. The last ball, I knew only if they hit a six, they could win. I bowled the leg-stump yorker and the result was in our favour."
"When the batsman hit the ball, some of the boys had started celebrating already. I was shouting at my keeper to throw the ball to me, the batsmen are still running. The fielder threw the ball again to the keeper end. Aritra [Dutta] was there and he took off the bails and the result was ours. It's a great feeling. Beating Scotland is not an easy thing. We know they are one of the strongest teams and we are very happy. We want to carry on with the same momentum in the tournament."
David's placement at deep midwicket was not the original plan either. It took some prodding from Manpreet Singh behind the stumps to reposition David on the boundary into the area where Manpreet felt Scotland were most likely to target.
"I think he is an all-round package," Mahboob said of David, who only made 1 but was instrumental in the field with four catches and a runout. "If he never clicks with the bat, he can do well in the bowling and the fielding. Thanks to my keeper, he asked me to put Tim David on the leg side. I listened to him and I think that helped me."
On the flip side, Scotland's fielding cost them badly as several missed stumpings and a drop on the boundary resulted in bonus runs for Singapore. Coetzer said his side needs to be more clinical when opportunities in the field present themselves.
"I guess it's about being a little bit more ruthless in terms of taking our opportunities," Coetzer said after his side's loss. "In T20 cricket, it's fine margins sometimes. I think both sides missed opportunities at key times in the game. We missed a couple in the first half, which possibly could have put them on the back foot, with three-four wickets down. But that's how the game goes. We seemed to have it under control towards the end. As we all know, there is no team you can underestimate in this tournament and Singapore are a very good side. In the end, they deserved their win."