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Cricket squad finishes third

AMONG THE BEST—Malawi players warm up for a match

TOP PERFORMER—Baig (right) receives a Player-of-the-Match award from an ICC official

Malawi Cricket National Team stand-in Coach Arjun Menon has hailed his players’ performance in the ICC T20 World Cup Africa Sub-Region qualifiers.

The team finished third in Group A of the qualifiers after winning four matches and losing two.

This is the best-ever finish for Malawi in the competition, whose 2021 qualifiers were concluded in Kigali, Rwanda, over the weekend.

Menon said he opted to take a young squad to the week-long contest as part of the game’s development in the country.

“The decision to take a young side to the competition more than met our expectations. We had six debutants and five players under the age of 20. Everyone played their part for us to finish the highest we have ever done in World Cup qualifiers.

“Even though we did not progress, we earned respect from the top seeded team Uganda, which qualified for the next stage. We put up a good fight against them. Perhaps if we had played them later in the tournament, instead of having to come up against them as favourites in the first match, we might just have pulled off a famous win,” he said.

Menon said beating hosts Rwanda in the last fixture helped them to seal the third spot behind Uganda and Ghana.

“The result proved that we have players who are lion-hearted. I could not have asked for more from the guys. This just gives me the belief that we can move forward and set targets to match teams like Uganda in the next five years and see ourselves progressing further in such qualifying events,” he said.

Malawi started the contest with an 11-over loss to Uganda but recovered to beat eSwatini by four wickets.

They went on to lose their third game by seven wickets to Ghana before Sohail carried the team on his shoulders, finishing the Seychelles match with two out of 12 in his two overs.

Malawi defeated Lesotho by 22 runs in their last match, which was reduced to 15 overs a side after a delayed start caused by overnight rains.

All-rounder Sami Sohail was Malawi’s player of the tournament, scoring 197 runs with two half centuries and picking up six wickets with an average of 18 runs a wicket and an economy rate of six runs per over.

Sami was also the tournament’s second highest run scorer, losing out on the top prize with just two runs.

Captain Moazzam Baig led from the front, finishing as the second highest wicket taker of the tournament with 14 wickets at a spectacular average of five runs a wicket and a miserly economy rate of four runs per over.

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