A win worth the wait

Singapore right-arm bowler Shoib Razak (left) celebrates after dismissing a Malaysian batsman in the T20 final.
Singapore right-arm bowler Shoib Razak (left) celebrates after dismissing a Malaysian batsman in the T20 final.PHOTO: ANDREW JK TAN/SPORT SINGAPORE

Shoib, 40, leads Singapore to historic cricket gold, rocking Malaysia in his final appearance

It was the final international match of his career and Shoib Razak wanted to end it on a high.

For 17 years, the right-arm medium pacer had toiled hard to give Singapore success at the Asian and international levels. But the honours were rare.

Yesterday, the 40-year-old produced a dream opening spell that rocked Malaysia.

In his first over, he removed two of the SEA Games hosts' best batsmen. Then he returned to bowl another tight spell that helped Singapore win their first cricket gold at the Games.

"I knew it was an important match and I had to perform to the best of my abilities in my last game for Singapore," said Shoib, who had figures of 2-15. "The feeling is just great that I played a key role in getting the gold for Singapore. I delivered when I was asked to."

He shed tears of joy as Singapore beat Malaysia by three wickets in the final of the Twenty20 tournament. His inspiring spell rubbed off on fellow medium pacer Ishaan Shekhar (2-17), who removed another top batsman as Malaysia were left tottering at 5-3 in the second over.

Despite a 57 off 51 balls by Virendeep Singh and an unbeaten 35 by Suharril Fetri, Malaysia never got going. The hosts finished on 117-7 in 20 overs which was below par on a Kinrara Oval pitch that played true.

Leg-spinner Anantha Krisha (2-19) also put the brakes on Malaysia as the Singapore team fielded brilliantly right through.

In reply, Navin Param (29 off 21 balls) got Singapore off to a bright start, but then some of the other top-order batsmen got out playing indiscreet shots.

It took a mature innings from Riaz Hussien (37 not out off 41 balls) to cross the line as winners as Singapore totalled 118-7 in 19.5 overs.

"During my time, we played several international matches but never got an opportunity like this," said former Singapore captain Stacey Muruthi, 65, who watched the final. "I am proud of our boys as they played well to win it. Shoib gave us a great start and Riaz finished it. This augurs well for Singapore cricket."

Three of his nephews - Singapore's captain Anish, Prasheen and Navin - played in the final.

The win enthused Singapore Cricket Association president Mahmood Gaznavi so much that he declared that Singapore teams - including age-group sides - can think of excelling beyond the Asian level.

"This display shows that Singapore cricket is well placed to take on the challenges ahead of us," he said. "Our talent pool is capable of taking on the best teams in Asia and elsewhere. We need to get better facilities and we will be there."

Singapore play in the World Cricket League Division Three - three rungs below Test level.

Singapore had lost to Malaysia in the SEA Games 50-overs tournament a week ago. Yesterday, fielding a host of youngsters, they managed to get the better of Malaysia, who went into the match with a number of experienced players.

Singapore are ranked 23rd in the world, three places above Malaysia.

"The boys are coming good," said Singapore coach Arjun Menon. "The win over Malaysia was a bit scrappy, but a win is a win and our boys deserved it. They played boldly and took their chances. This is good for cricket in Singapore. The show must go on."

Anish added: "The gold means the world to me and my team-mates. It's surreal, a dream come true."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'A win worth the wait'. Print Edition | Subscribe