Canada cruise to Challenge League B title

by   •  Published on
Canada have lost only one out of their last 11 games
Canada have lost only one out of their last 11 games © Getty

Canada took a step closer to reclaiming their ODI status with another dominant showing in the final Challenge League A event, going unbeaten through the third leg of the competition to finish ten points clear at the top of the table and secure a place at the World Cup Qualifier Playoff alongside Group B champions Jersey.

Having lost only one of their 10 matches across the first two legs of the competition, the final round-robin event of the six-team international List A league at Kuala Lumpur saw Canada again record convincing wins over Qatar, Singapore, Denmark and hosts Malaysia, only a wash-out against Vanuatu preventing another clean-sweep for the Canadians. Despite the absence of former skipper and lead-scorer Navneet Dhaliwal, Canada made light work of the opposition. Pragat Singh and Srimantha Wijeratne covered ably for Dhaliwal with the bat, while former Pakistan under-19 seamer Kaleem Sana bagged 16 wickets across his four matches.

Four points behind the Canadians at the start of the week, Singapore had looked best placed to challenge for the top spot, but a new-look squad missing not only Tim David (now of Australia) but also senior players Arjum Mutreja and Surendran Chandramohan quickly fell out of contention, losing their opening game to unfancied Vanuatu, the first of five consecutive defeats. They were able to push Demark hard in their third match as Aritra Dutta's 99 off 113 got them to 217-9, but Nicolaj Laegsgaard's brisk 61 from the top of the order put Denmark ahead of the game, and despite the loss of 8 wickets, the Danes closed out the chase with 22 balls to spare.

Denmark's strong showing owes much to Laegsgaard's all-round efforts across the three legs of the competition, the left-arm spinner contributing 265 runs at a better than a run a ball in addition to his 26 wickets. Together with opening partner Hamid Shah, who finished top of the run aggregates across the competition with 605 runs at 43 in Denmark's 14 matches, Laegsgaard is a strong contender for League MVP and a key contributor to Denmark's second-place finish, level with Qatar on 17 points but ahead on net run rate.

Qatar will also be pleased with their efforts, beginning the final round still at risk of relegation but winning three of the four matches the weather permitted them, and pushing Canada harder than any other team managed, reducing the frontrunners to 31-3 before Nicholas Kirton dug them out of trouble. Akash Babu in particular had a fine tournament with the bat, scoring consecutive half centuries to set up wins over Malaysia and Singapore, while Mohammad Nadeem continued to underline the dominance of left-arm spin in the competition, notably taking 5-18 to spin out hosts Malaysia and finishing fourth in the wicket tallies behind Laegsgaard and bin Zafar, and just ahead of another left-arm spinner in Singapore's Vinoth Baskaran.

Despite picking up three wins in their final home leg, including defeating the Danes by two wickets in their tournament opener, Malaysia never had much hope of escaping the relegation zone. Together with Vanuatu, whose opening win over Singapore proved their last of the competition, Malaysia will join Italy and Bermuda from Group B and four more teams qualifying on T20 rankings to contest the Challenge Playoff next year, where they will have to finish in the top four to retain their place on the 50-over international ladder.

Denmark, Qatar and Singapore have secured their place in the next edition of the Challenge League (or whatever might replace it), while as group champions Canada join Jersey in progressing to the CWC Qualifier Playoff, where they will meet Papua New Guinea, the USA and two other teams currently in League 2 to battle for two places at the World Cup Qualifier. While qualification for the ten-team 2023 World Cup is a remote prospect, the Qualifier Playoff also affords Canada the chance to reclaim the ODI status they lost in 2014, and to earn back a place in the Associates top-flight competition.



Move to top