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Six days into the competition and still Canada found a way to breathe fresh life into this ICC Trophy tournament with an extraordinary two wicket victory over the United Arab Emirates today. Even as Scotland reaffirmed its status as tournament favourite and glamour team Uganda powered its way to another sensational victory, it was the Canadians' thrilling win which stood out as the day's main highlight.
Following two successive losses in Group 1A, the Canadians bowled with great purpose during the morning session to contain the UAE to a total of 228/7 on a Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club pitch that offered even bounce and pace for most of the day.
It then appeared that the hosts were poised to record a regulation win as they worked their way toward a score of 183/3 in reply. But a bad mix up resulted in the needless run out of top scorer Ian Billcliff (63) at that point and the wheels suddenly began to fall off the innings.
Another run out and the accurate bowling of Mohammad Tauqeer (3/38) and Khuram Khan (1/36) contrived to leave the Canadians requiring 11 runs off the final eight deliveries with only two wickets in hand. Two big strokes from Davis Joseph (10*) helped reduce the odds but the match was still hanging in the balance by the time its fate was finally settled in astounding style four deliveries into the final over.
With four runs still needed, Joseph hammered a Khan delivery to long off, and ran two quickly before the return came back. His heart was set on the third and he turned and raced toward the bowler's end. But partner Ashish Bagai (13*) failed to respond and the pair were joined, stranded close to 22 yards away from where one of them needed to be. By all rights, a comfortable run out should have been effected but a wild throw eluded the wicketkeeper as Bagai madly scrambled back.
In the by-now almost complete confusion, Joseph had also headed back towards the striker's end. But, as the fieldsmen again failed to take advantage of the madness of the running, there was by now a chance for Bagai to beat a quick path to the bowler's end once more to somehow scramble a fourth and winning run.
If predictability is the enemy of good sport, this match had friends in all the right places.
Group leader Scotland set up its thumping ten wicket win over Singapore at Malton with another excellent bowling performance. The Scots permitted themselves the luxury of resting arguably their two best pacemen in John Blain and Asim Butt yet still encountered few problems in dismissing the Singaporeans for 114. One of the replacement players, Keith Sheridan (4/13), grasped his chance with both hands, bowling with remorseless accuracy as he cut a swathe through the middle order.
Promoted to roles as opening batsmen, Douglas Lockhart (47) and Craig Wright (58) then completed the job with a brisk stand that took their team just beyond the scheduled halfway point of its innings.
The Scots stay firmly entrenched at the head of Group 1A, unbeaten from four games. Their last remaining preliminary round match - against fellow competition powerhouse, the Netherlands, on Thursday - will be the most eagerly awaited game of the entire tournament to date.
In a team laden with charismatic players, Ugandan all-rounder Junior Kwebiha (109*) has been a revelation throughout the event. Today, he stepped up the level of his performance even further by scoring a brilliant unbeaten century and occupying the central role in an extraordinary end-of-innings acceleration. As many as 166 runs were clubbed from the final fifteen overs of Uganda's innings - 121 of them from the last nine - as it exploded to a tally of 303/5 that simply took the match beyond Argentina's reach.
Stylish opener Charles Lwanga (58) played a classy innings full of attractive strokes and, following his sizzling 54-ball century earlier in the tournament, pinch hitter Kenneth Kamyuka (36) chipped in to perform another very useful role from the fifteen deliveries that he faced. The power, not to mention the sheer distance, of some of the hitting had to be seen to be believed.
Kwebiha (2/31) then returned to capture two wickets with his medium pace in the midst of a comparatively disappointing reply from the Argentinians. Guillermo Kirschbaum (31) continued to bat well but the extent of the task of having to score at better than a run a ball for the entire innings appeared to weigh heavily on the minds of almost all of the batsmen. The South Americans' cause was not helped either by the absence of Martin Cortabarria, who had broken a finger while wicketkeeping and was forced to see out the day in hospital.
Although the Ugandans had entered the match between the two previously unbeaten Group 2A teams as hot favourites, they could barely have been more impressive. Although they still have two preliminary matches left to play (against France and Israel), they now look near-certainties to head their group and to move into the next phase of the competition. It would take a serious reversal of form for them to be denied.
Denmark meanwhile tightened its hold on the leadership of Group 1B with a convincing six wicket victory over Papua New Guinea at Sunnybrook.
Just a day after claiming a hat-trick to skittle the United States, Soren Vestergaard (2/17) produced another excellent display to join Thomas Hansen (2/14) in ruining the Papua New Guinean top order. Lars Andersen (5/24) then went to work on the middle and lower order batsmen to limit the total to a paltry 92, only Jamie Brazier (26) and Aukuma Noka (23) looking comfortable with the bat.
For a short period in the early afternoon, the appearance of thick grey clouds and the occasional spot of rain threatened to halt proceedings. In seeking to put an end to the game quickly, the Dutchmen lost four early wickets, opening bowler Tuku Raka (3/21) returning his best figures of the tournament as he applied the screws to the early scoring rate with excellent line and length.
As the prospects of any kind of serious rain-enforced interruption receded, though, so did the Papua New Guinean hopes of preventing the match from reaching a very early finish. The hard-hitting Aftab Ahmed (39*) and Mickey Lund (22*) joined in a quickfire half-century partnership for the fifth wicket that ended the contest with more than twenty-three overs still remaining.
Rohan Alexander (110*) starred as the United States of America recorded a 49-run win over Hong Kong at Maple Leaf. With partner Dave Wallace (68), Alexander dispirited the Hong Kong attack with an opening partnership of 153 that went a long way to settling the outcome of the match. Tabarak Dar (4/34) grabbed a series of late wickets but several dropped catches and misfields allowed the total to reach 254/8.
The Hong Kong side made a reasonable fist of the chase, but the task of scoring at better than five runs per over against a disciplined attack proved too challenging. Javid Nasir (4/46) stood out with the ball.
In defeating East and Central Africa by four wickets and with 37 deliveries to spare, Malaysia also completed a solid win.
Although the task of overhauling the score ultimately proved more challenging than expected, the Malaysian bowlers effectively set up the win by holding the Africans to a score of only 140. Rohan Suppiah (3/20) generated an outstanding ten over spell to inflict much of the damage.
Well contained by Shamsher Madhani (2/22) and Arif Paliwalla (2/22), the Malaysians fell to 33/4 early in the afternoon. But an excellent innings from Rohan Selvaratnam (48*) and fine support from Suresh Navaratnam (34) and Muniandy Krishnamurthi (15*) was enough to tilt the balance decisively back in the Malaysians' direction.
Hong Kong AUnited States of AmericaUgandaUnited Arab EmiratesSingaporeScotlandMalaysiaHong KongSir Paul Getty's XIDenmarkCanadaArgentinaNepal tour of CanadaGibraltar tour of CanadaEast and Central Africa tour of CanadaNamibia tour of CanadaGermany tour of CanadaPapua New Guinea tour of CanadaIsrael tour of CanadaUganda tour of CanadaUnited States of America tour of CanadaIreland tour of CanadaHong Kong tour of CanadaUnited Arab Emirates tour of CanadaNetherlands tour of CanadaMalaysia tour of CanadaFrance tour of CanadaIsrael tour of CanadaiArgentina tour of CanadaDenmark tour of CanadaBermuda tour of CanadaScotland tour of CanadaFiji tour of CanadaSingapore tour of CanadaICC Trophy