KATHMANDU, Sept 5: Nepal national cricket team’s hope of reaching Asia Cup was dashed off by Hong Kong on Tuesday. In a low-scoring encounter, Hong Kong beat Nepal by three wickets after surviving a Sandeep Lamichhane scare at the ongoing ACC (Asian Cricket Council) Asia Cup Qualifiers in Bangi, Malaysia.
Batting first after winning the toss, Nepal was all out for 95, which was overcome by Hong Kong in 32.3 overs at the loss of seven wickets, five of which were claimed by Lamichhane in a heroic attempt to salvage Nepal. Anshuman Rath, the Hong Kong captain, was the star of the chase with his patient 82-ball 52 that helped negotiate a fired-up Lamichhane.
Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) won its match against Oman by 13 runs in Kuala Lumpur to seal its place in the final. The UAE finished at top of the table with eight points, while Hong Kong came in the second place with seven points, ahead of Oman on net run rate. The final of the qualifiers will be played on Thursday.
It was a day when Nepal needed to win the match against Hong Kong with a big margin, and hope that Oman beat the UAE, for qualifying to the Asia Cup. Nepal opted to bat first after winning the toss in the match that was delayed by 45 minutes.
Nepal lost Subash Khakurel in the first ball of the match. It was a sign of things to come. Five of the Nepal batsmen managed to score double digits, but none could carry on to play a significant inning.
Skipper Paras Khadka’s poor tournament with the bat continued as he made 14 runs from 29 deliveries before edging a catch to wicket-keeper off Ehsan Nawaz.
Vice-captain Gyanendra Malla, batting in middle order, could only make 12 runs before falling victim to Tanwri Afzal delivery as wicket-keeper Scott McKechnie completed another catch. Aarif Sheikh’s 53-ball 18 was the highest score of the innings, and it underlined Nepal’s inability to deal with the Hong Kong bowlers, all of whom were among the wickets. Opening batsman Anil Kumar Sah and Basant Regmi made identical 15 runs facing 42 deliveries and smashing two boundaries each.
Eshan Khan, who returned 4/15, was the pick among them. Aizaz Khan and Tanwir Afzal chipped in with two wickets each. Similarly, Ehsan Nawaz and Nadeem Ahmed picked up a wicket each.
Lamichhane ran through much of the Hong Kong top order to return 5/27, comprising five of Hong Kong’s top six batsmen. However, Rath put up brave and gritty batting display from one end. He smashed three boundaries and a six against Lamichhane just before getting out, keeping his side in the chase even as wickets kept falling at the other end.
They were 40/3, but Rath’s 31-run stand with Kinchit Shah helped them edge closer to the target before more wickets, including that of Rath, left them reeling at 87/7. However, Tanwir Afzal and Scott McKechnie helped see through the chase. Nepal’s Sagar Pun and Regmi were the other wicket-takers.
Captain Rohan Mustafa scored a 104-ball 71 from number 3 as the UAE, after being asked to bat first, posted 208/8. Mustafa added brief partnerships, the highest among them being 29 and 26 he put up with Muhammad Usman and Adnan Mufti for the fifth and sixth wickets, respectively. Oman, meanwhile, had contributions from the entire line-up.
Aqib Ilyas’ 43-ball 45, comprising seven fours, kept them going, even though Jatinder Singh (7) and Vaibhav Wategaonkar (17) were dismissed fairly quickly. However, Khawar Ali (20), Ajay Lalcheta (22), Mohammad Nadeem (23) and Naseem Khushi (27) helped keep Oman in the hunt. The wickets kept tumbling, though, with all of Mohammad Naveed, Amir Hayat, and Mustafa picking up two wickets each. It eventually proved the difference as they fell agonizingly short.
In the third encounter of the day, Singapore held off Malaysia for a 29-run victory to get their first and the only win of the tournament. Despite that, they finished at the bottom of the table, just below Malaysia.
At the Asia Cup, the winners of the qualifiers will take on India and Pakistan in the group stage – Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in the other group – with their first fixture lined up against Pakistan on September 16.
ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers in Bangi
Nepal 95 all out (37.5 Ov)
Ehsan 15/4, Aizaz 16/2, Tanwir 31/2
Hong Kong 96/7 (32.3/50 Ov)
Rath 52, Lamichhane 27/5, Regmi 17/1
Hong Kong won by 3 wickets (with 105 balls remaining)
Player of the match: Anshuman Rath