Nepal shares trophy with UAE after thrilling final
KATHMANDU, Oct 12: A rollercoaster ride and the last over drama, nothing could separate Nepal and the UAE forcing both the teams to share the ACC Trophy Elite title.
The final match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium ended in a tie on Friday as Nepal reached 241/9 after the completion of 50 overs. Earlier, the UAE had put up 241/6.
It is the first time Nepal has finished the ACC Trophy Elite as winner. Nepal had reached the finals in 2002 and 2010 editions of the tournament and lost to the UAE by six wickets and Afghanistan by 95 runs respectively.
It is the second title for Nepal in a span of a month. Nepal had won ICC World Cricket League Division 4 title in Malaysia last month.
Chasing 242-run target, Nepal had to score 12 runs from the last over to win the match. Shakti Gauchan was on strike and Sharad Vesawkar was at the other end giving hope to Nepal. Gauchan failed to score in the first ball but pushed the second for a run. Vesawkar again could not go for a big hit and settled for a single.
However, Gauchan struck a brilliant six to bring down the equation four runs required off two balls. Gauchan pulled two runs in the fifth ball but managed to score only a single in the last ball. He was run out trying to push for winning run.
Nepal had started the run-chase brilliantly as its opening pair Subash Khakurel and Anil Mandal put-up a 94-run partnership. Manjula Guruge took the wicket of Mandal in 21.5 overs and Saqib Ali claimed the wicket of Khakurel in the 24.3 overs. Mandal scored 44 runs off 67 balls including two boundaries and a six while Khakurel contributed 55 runs off 74 balls including two boundaries and two sixes.
In the middle order, Gyanendra Malla scored 32 runs off 41 balls, captain Paras Khadka scored 31 runs off 37 balls. Pradeep Airee chipped in with 16 runs off 28 balls.
Nepal lost wickets in the quick span in the later part of the innings but Vesawkar remained unbeaten with 38 runs off 36 balls hitting a boundary and two sixes. Gauchan scored 14 runs to end the match in a tie.
It was the highest successful run-chase by Nepali batsmen at the international level.
Earlier, Nepal, which was without fast bowlers Amrit Bhattarai and Binod Das because of injuries, elected to field first. Nepal started well and the UAE was on 24/3 at one point. However, the middle order of the host rebuilt the innings.
Captain Khurram Khan and Saqib Ali put up an 87-run partnership for the fifth wicket. Player-of-the-final Ali remained unbeaten with 101 runs off 103 balls. He struck eight boundaries and two sixes. Khan scored 61 runs off 79 balls including five boundaries. Opener Abdul Shakoor (20 runs), Haroon Iftikhar (24 runs) and Roshan Mustafa (unbeaten 21 runs) were the other contributors for the UAE. Gauchan took three wickets and Sanjam Regmi claimed a wicket for Nepal.
"We are very happy despite the tie since we are claiming the title for the first time," said Uttam Karmacharya, the Nepali team manager. "Our batsmen showed their guts to chase any total and it is a huge improvement I have noticed in our team," said Karmacharya, who was the captain when Nepal participated in the ACC Trophy for the first time in 1996.
Nepali captain Khadka credited the title victory to his teammates. "Our hard work paid back and we are happy," said Khadka. "The World Cricket League Division 4 victory has its own meaning but for us this trophy has more value as we put up higher level of performance in this tournament," he added.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayake termed the tie as new experience to his boys. "We had made a few mistakes but boys´ experienced a lot of new things because of the tie. I´m happy to finish the tournament as champion," said Dassanayake.
He applauded Nepali batsmen for the brilliant run chase. "They are talented players and whatever I can, I have given to them. They are now a totally new side in terms of batting," said Dassanayake.
Khadka, Gauchan shine
Nepali captain Khadka was awarded player-of-the-series. Khadka is the top scorer of the tournament as he scored 291 runs from five innings of six matches with an average of 72.75. He has also claimed nine wickets in the tournament.
"I´m glad that I contributed to the team to be the champion and I´m ready for much more in days to come," said Khadka. "Not only me, all the players showcased their maturity," he added.
Coach Dassanayake said Khadka´s success was a morale boost for Nepali team and Nepali cricket.
Meanwhile, Nepali spinner Gauchan finished the tournament as the most successful bowler. Gauchan claimed 15 wickets in six matches with 3.18 economy rate.