KATHMANDU, Oct 7: Gyanendra Malla scored fastest half-century for Nepal as Pubudu Dassanayake´s boys pulled off a nine-wicket victory over Saudi Arabia in the ACC Trophy Elite on Sunday.
Chasing 132-run target at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Nepal reached 133/1 in just 13.1 overs as Malla remained unbeaten on 61 runs.
It was the first One-Day encounter between Nepal and Saudi Arabia.
Openers Subash Khakurel and Anil Mandal put up 52-run opening partnership. Mandal scored 29 runs off 25 balls before Mohammad Nadeem bowled him out. However, Khakurel remained unbeaten with 35 runs off 31 balls.
Vice captain Malla was superb in his batting and scored unbeaten 61 runs off 23 balls to seal the easy victory. He hit 13 boundaries and a towering six during the innings. He struck six consecutive boundaries off Mohammad Nadeem in the 10th over to become the first Nepali cricketer to strike six boundaries in an over.
Man-of-the-match Malla had reached the half-century only from 18 balls. It was the fastest half-century scored by Nepali batsman. Until now, Raju Khadka had the record to his name as he had scored a half-century from 37 balls against Bhutan in 2003.
Earlier, Nepal elected to field and restricted Saudi Arabia to 131 runs in 48.2 overs. Captain Paras Khadka and Basant Regmi took three wickets each while Shakti Gauchan and Bhuwan Karki claimed two wickets each.
Ifthakar Ali (unbeaten 28 runs), Mohammad Mohsin (27 runs), Mohammad Nadeem (19 runs) and Nadeem Al-Nadwi (16 runs) were the major contributors for the Saudi Arabia.
"It was an expected result. We were to set up good net run rate from the match and we maintained it. However, we are still missing fast bowlers as both of them are suffering from injury," said Nepali team coach Dassanayake.
Dassanayake applauded Malla´s innings against Saudi Arabia. "It was brilliant knock with good cricketing shots. We were to push Saudi Arabia to seal the match as soon as possible and he batted brilliantly," he said.
"Virtual quarterfinal" against Hong Kong
With the victory against Saudi Arabia, Nepal´s chance to qualify for the semifinal came back on track while UAE confirmed semifinal berth defeating Kuwait by 141 runs on Sunday. Nepal had suffered 4-wicket defeat against Kuwait and was in must win situation.
In group B points table, the UAE is on top with six points from four matches. Hong Kong is second on the table with four points from three matches. Nepal also has four points from three matches but inferior net run rate than Hong Kong.
Nepal will take on Hong Kong on Tuesday in the last group stage match and the winner will qualify for the semifinal of the tournament.
"It will be a vital match. If we win it, we´ll not only go forward but also have a chance to finish on the top of the group´s points table," said Dassanayake.
Dassanayake expected that at least one of the two fast bowlers would be available for the match. "We still have more than 40 hours. We are trying to get them fit. We can hope at least one would be available for the match," said Dassanayake.
Nepali fast bowlers Binod Das and Amrit Bhattarai, both, are suffering from injury.
Bhandari makes One-Day debut
Nepali batsman Binod Bhandari made his One-Day debut for Nepal against Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Though he didn´t have to bat and bowl in the match, he took a catch. Bhandari caught Nadeem Al-Nadwi off Basant Regmi.