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A bizarrerie in Bangkok


Bowler_set_up_wicket_batsman_cricketChina’s batting travails in the recently concluded ICC World Cricket League Asia Region Division One in Chiang Mai, Thailand made for sorry reading – they mustered totals of 28, 57, 56, 55, 74 and 67 in their six games. These add up to a grand total 335, which was four runs less than the lowest total they conceded in a completed innings.

China were admitted by the ICC as an Affiliate member in 2004 and their inaugural appearance in an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) tournament was in the 2009 ACC Trophy Challenge in Chiang Mai, where they finished seventh out of eight teams. The second edition of the ACC Trophy Challenge took place in December 2010, another eight-team affair with Thailand being the hosts again.

Clubbed in Group B, China failed to make it to the semifinals after having lost two of their three group matches. The sole win came against Brunei, defending 115 to win by 56 runs, which enabled them to set up a fifth-place playoff clash with Iran. This match, played at the Terdthai Cricket Ground in Bangkok, produced an astonishing result, and considering China’s string of double-digit totals in the recent past, the time is ripe to look back at this bizarre encounter.

In the previous match between the two sides, played at the 2009 edition of the ACC Trophy Challenge, China were at the receiving end of a 307-run walloping, getting shot out for 62 in reply to Iran’s 369/6. Now, with the fifth position up for grabs, this was a great opportunity for the Chinese to get even, and at the innings break, it almost seemed certain that they were on the path to redemption.

Chinese captain Wang Lei, a medium pacer who was named player of the match in the success against Brunei for his haul of 3/7, was in the thick of things from the very outset after his Iranian counterpart Yousef Raeisi elected to bat. Opener Shirmohammad Baloochnezad, scorer of 119 in the aforementioned 2009 game, was castled by Lei off the second ball of the innings, and three balls later, Salman Sheikhi was dispatched as well, for a duck.

By the end of the first over, Iran were 2/2 and the Chinese had their tails up. To add to the Iranians’ frustration, captain Raeisi was caught short of his crease in the fifth over, managing only two runs, before Lei collected his third victim in the form of Naiem Bameri, out without scoring after a thin edge deflected the ball into the gloves of wicketkeeper Zhao Gao Sheng. Iran, now 13/4, were in dire need of a rescue operation.

Teenager Ali Narouei also failed to make an impact, and was soon bowled by Zhang Peng to leave the score at 21/5 inside ten overs. For a moment, opener Rashed Bameri looked good to hold the innings together, having hit two fours – which would remain the only boundaries of the match – and his sixth-wicket partnership with Abdolvahab Ebrahimpour had blossomed to 26 when he was unfortunately run out.

Rashed Bameri had injured himself while making his ground in the eighth over, which led to him requiring the services of Naiem Bameri as a runner. With the score 47/5 in the 19th over, Naiem did not respond to Rashed’s call for a run, and the latter was out for a gritty 19, the highest score of the innings, though ‘Mr. Extras’ ultimately surpassed that with an impressive 21. With all the frontline batsmen out, it was not surprising that the rest of the innings fell away tamely.

Leg-spinner Sun Duo hastened the collapse with two scalps of his own as Iran lost their last five wickets for a mere eight runs in eight overs. The innings wound up at 55 in 26.3 overs, with Lei again leading from the front with a neat return of 3/11 in six overs. However, for China, who had been good with the ball but poor with the bat – they were bowled out for 49 against Saudi Arabia and 55 against Maldives – in the course of the tournament, the job was only half done.

Ebrahimpour, a talented 19-year-old pace-bowling all-rounder, struck early for Iran, removing Li Jian without scoring in the first over. Jiang Shu Yao and Song Yang Yang cautiously took the score to 16/1 in the fourth over, at which point Naiem Bameri’s pace got the better of the latter. This dismissal triggered a meltdown of gigantic proportions across the next couple of overs, as the pairing of Ebrahimpour and Naiem Bameri tore through the Chinese top and middle order.

Three wickets fell with the score at 17; Ebrahimpour trapped Yao leg-before off the fifth ball of his third over, before Naiem took over, making amends for the running mishap earlier in the day. He sent back Zhang Yu Fei and skipper Lei for ducks off successive deliveries. It was just the sixth over, but China had lost half their side with just 17 on the board. The weaknesses of the Chinese batsmen were profoundly exposed.

The miniscule target now appeared to be miles away as Chinese hopes faded fast with every blow. With the score in tatters at 21/7, Wang Jing and Sun Duo got together and attempted a last-ditch effort to save the day. They circumspectly inched towards the target, and at 38/7, the stage was set for an exciting finish. Najib Arjmandi provided Iran with the much-needed breakthrough, cleaning up Jing to end an obstinate stand of 17 from 53 balls.

There was no further twist in the tail, however, as off-spinner Loghman Sheikhi completed the last rites by taking the last two wickets in the final over before the lunch interval, first bowling Duo and then having Sheng stumped by wicketkeeper Yahya Sheikhi. China were bundled out for 38 in 16.5 overs, and the game was finished before lunch. None of the batsmen crossed seven, and as was the case in Iran’s innings, Mr. Extras was the best performer with 15.

Naiem Bameri was the pick of the bowlers with 4/12, while Ebrahimpour was not too far behind with 3/12. Iran’s incredible 17-run win ensured a fifth-place finish for them, while China were left to rue another shoddy outing with the bat. It would have required a steely resolve for a team to come out and defend such a ridiculously small total, but Iran did just that through a dynamic display, both with the ball and in the field.   

The numbers from this eye-popping match say a lot about its freakish nature. It lasted for 43.2 overs, in which all 20 wickets were lost for 93 runs, which meant that a wicket fell every 13 balls on average. Only one batsman reached double figures, and there were as many as nine batsmen out without scoring, three of them off the first ball. Extras contributed 36 runs across both innings – nearly 39% of the total. The ball utterly subjugated the bat, and how!


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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