Malaysia eliminate the UAE
The United Arab Emirates have been dominant in Asian cricket below Test level for many years. They were unbeaten in the ACC Trophy from the 2000 tournament until the 2008 tournament, when they lost to Saudi Arabia in the group stage and Hong Kong in the final.
But signs are that their domination is coming to an end. Afghanistan have ODI status, something the UAE have twice just missed out on, and now they have failed to reach the semi-finals of the ACC Trophy for the first time in their history.
The team that eliminated them, Malaysia, had never beaten them in ACC or ICC competition before, and they had to win big if they were to increase their net run rate enough to be able to reach the semi-finals and eliminate the UAE.
With the UAE batting first, Malaysia's opening pacemen Suresh Navaratnam and Hassan Ghulam bowled perfect opening spells. Navaratnam was playing with a bone spur in his ankle, and was limping when walking in the field, but he showed great hear in bowling all his ten overs in one spell, taking 4-29 to help reduce the UAE to 70-7.
The big win Malaysia needed was looking to be on. But the UAE fought back. Salman Farooq and Shadeep Silva put on 46 for the eighth wicket before Nik Arifin took two wickets in the 31st over. A 35 run last wicket partnership for the last wicket followed, Malaysia not helping themselves with some dropped catches and a number of wides.
The UAE reached 152 in exactly 41 overs. It was unlikely to be enough to win the match, but Malaysia had the added wrinkle of needing to reach their target in 28.2 overs to reach the semi finals, and the chase was on.
Malaysia's reply started badly with Damith Warusavithana and Rakesh Madhavan out within five overs with just 13 runs on the board. But a partnership of 67 between Ahmad Faiz and Malaysian captain Suhan Kumar before Faiz was out for 43 swung the game back their way.
Malaysia were still behind the rate, but they were accelerating. Suhan Kumar played the perfect captain's knock, scoring 65 at exactly a run a ball, dominating the strike as Malaysia's weaker batsmen were falling around him.
Hassan Ghulam stayed with him the longest, and it was his job to guide the team to the required total, in the required overs, once Kumar fell. Inching closer to the target, with tensions high in both camps, by the start of the 28th over, Malaysia needed four runs from eight deliveries to qualify for the semi-finals.
Sharul Nizam hit the first ball of that 28th over to the boundary, sparking wild celebrations in the Malaysian camp. The UAE had failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time, and Malaysia were there for the first time since 2002. They have the formidable task of Nepal in their semi-final, but given the way they've performed against Afghanistan and the UAE, it would be a foolish man to completely rule out them reaching the final.
The other big match of the day was between defending champions Hong Kong and Oman. No net run rate calculations complicating things in this match, it was a simple case of the winners going through to the next stage.
Overnight rain and a damp outfield led to a delayed start, and the game was reduced to 39 overs. Oman were put into bat by Hong Kong, and whilst Deep Trivedi made 54, only one other batsmen passed 20 and Oman were bowled out for 168, Moner Ahmed taking 4-19.
Hong Kong managed to complicate their chase though, with wickets falling regularly. Nizakat Khan was their top scorer with 57, and they reached their target with just one ball to spare to win by one wicket.
Hong Kong will face Afghanistan in their semi-final, a repeat of the 2006 and 2008 semi-finals, both of which Hong Kong won.
The other match of the day was essentially a dead rubber match between Nepal and Kuwait. Nepal were already through to the semi-finals, but needed to win to confirm their place at the top of the group. They did this easily, bowling Kuwait out for 120 and knocking off the runs in 26.4 overs to win by eight wickets, Mahesh Chettri scoring 63.
The semi-finals will take place tomorrow, with the Afghanistan v Hong Kong match covered live on CricketEurope. The seventh place play-off between Bhutan and Kuwait also takes place tomorrow, whilst the fifth place play-off between UAE and Oman is on Thursday.