MALAYSIA can ill-afford another insipid batting display if they are to deny perennial favourites Nepal in the ACC Under-16 Elite Cup final at the Kinrara Oval today.
In the last three games, the bowlers were forced to dig Malaysia out of trouble and they came close to creating an upset against Nepal in the preliminary round when a last-stand of 52 runs gave Nepal a one-wicket win.
That should give the Malaysian players belief that they can win this tournament although team manager Balakrishnan Nair will be praying that his batsmen can stay at crease longer than they have so far.
"We cannot bat like we have been doing in the final," said Balakrishnan after watching his players rescue themselves against Oman in the semi-finals on Friday, hafving been dismissed for 78.
"The bowlers have done very well but the batsmen will have to reach at least 150 runs if we are to win the final."
Malaysia have only reached 150 once in the tournament, against minnows Iran in the opening match, and made 149 against Bahrain over 36 overs in a rain-shortened match.
Since then, however, Malaysia have lost a combined 30 wickets, against Kuwait, Nepal and Oman with scores of 124, 139 and 78 respectively.
Malaysia's highest run scorer, captain D. Thejas Rajah, who began so well with knocks of 62 and 49 in the first two matches, has only managed eight runs since and the batting reached a nadir against Oman when none of the batsmen scored more than nine.
The bowlers in contrast have done splendidly with Pavandeep Singh (12), Sharvin Muniandy (10) and Shankar Satish (10) sharing the bulk of the wickets.
Should Malaysia win today, it would be the country's first win in an Asian Cricket Council tournament and would also end a jinx against Nepal, who have never lost to Malaysia at any level of cricket.
RESULTS -- 3rd-4th: Oman bt Singapore by 61 runs; 5th-6th: Thailand bt Bahrain by eight wkts.
TODAY -- Final: Malaysia v Nepal (Kinrara Oval, 10am).