SINGAPORE - Singapore's cricketers guaranteed themselves a silver after they beat Thailand by 63 runs in their penultimate round-robin 50 overs match at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (Aug 22).
But they will have to come up with a much better batting performance if they are to beat hosts Malaysia and claim the SEA Games' first cricket gold on Wednesday.
A gritty 65 not out from Abhiraj Singh helped Singapore total 187-9 in 50 overs against Thailand.
They were in trouble at 50-4 in 9.3 overs and 111-7 in 34 overs before Abhiraj, in the company of middle-order batsman Rezza Gaznavi (25) and tail-enders Vivek Vedagiri (15), Shoib Razak (10) and Anantha Krishna (13 not out) lifted them to a respectable score.
"The wicket was slow, so I could not really play my shots," said Abhiraj, 22. "The important thing was to consolidate as we lost some early wickets. So I had to play straight and work the ball for singles. Rotating strike and running hard were the key."
Asked why Singapore's top-order failed to click and lost three quick wickets in the power play, coach Arjun Menon said: "It was not a case of nerves. The batsmen went for their shots and it was unfortunate that they got out. This happens in cricket.
"But, presented with a challenge, the team showed a lot of character to put up 187. It was a fantastic effort. Then our bowlers did a good job to bowl out the Thais."
Off-spinner Dharmichand Mulewa claimed 5-35, his second five-wicket haul of the tournament following his 7-22 against Myanmar on Sunday, as Thailand were restricted to 124 in 41.2 overs. He was ably supported by Singh, who took 2-27 with his left-arm spin.
"Of course there was pressure as it was a silver-medal match," said Singapore's captain Anish Paraam. "The boys put up a great fight to get back into the game. Our top six batsmen have the technique and the ability to bat 50 overs. Against Malaysia it will all be about grit and winning as many sessions as possible."
The organisers have given the Singapore team a slightly tougher task by scheduling them to play back-to-back matches while the Malaysians have a day's rest following their win over Myanmar on Monday.
But Menon feels it is not a big deal. He said: "Our players are used to it as in International Cricket Council tournaments we have to play back-to-back matches.
"In fact, it will be less taxing as half of the match against Malaysia will be played under lights. Our boys are fit and they will have the extra motivation to take it to the Malaysians as it is virtually the final."
Paraam too felt that the Singapore players are raring to go. "We definitely have a good chance to take gold," he said. "We have to stick to the basics and our strengths and play with the Singapore flag on our sleeves."