Nepal qualified for the ACC U-19 Asia Cup after winning the ACC U-19 Eastern Region cricket tournament at the Kinrara Oval ground in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday.
With just the champions assured of a ticket to the ACC U-19 Asia Cup, Nepal beat Hong Kong by five wickets in the final to join the Test giants India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for the November tournament also to be held in Malaysia. Nepal will be joined by the Western Region champions in the Asia Cup. The victory also marked Nepal’s hundred percent record with wins in all five matches in the tournament.
Batting first, Hong Kong were bundled out for a lowly 76 runs in 32.1 overs. But Nepal were made to battle for victory despite chasing the small total, surpassing the target for the loss of five wickets in 14.4 overs.
Like all the other opponents, Hong Kong batsmen capitulated under sharp Nepali bowling. Opener Harpeet Singh, who topscored with 20 runs, S Jhathavedh (16) and Waqas Khan (15) were the only Hong Kong batsmen to put some resistance.
Star leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane once again led the Nepali bowling assault, finishing with an enviable figures of 3-8 in 6.1 overs. Shahab Alam also claimed 3-15 in seven overs, while Anil Kumar Sah and skipper Dipendra Singh Airee bagged one wicket each. Nepal also effected two run outs to derail the Hong Kong innings.
Airee believed that his team showed some nerves chasing the modest target in the final.
“We tried to play our natural game and lost a few wickets that resulted put us under pressure towards the end,” Airee admitted. “But the most important thing is that we are now in the Asia Cup.”
He said they need to focus on improving their batting and work on their fitness to put on a good fight in the Asia Cup.
Nepal lost opener Asif Sheikh (1) with just 10 runs on the board but with contributions from his opening partner Sandeep Sunar (19), Airee (22), Pranit Thapa Magar (19) and Anil Kumar Sah (16) ensured their victory. Airee slammed four fours in his 26 ball knock, while Thapa Magar hit two sixes and a four in his 18-ball unbeaten innings. Karandeep Singh was the pick of Hong Kong bowlers with figures of 3-35 and S Jhathavedh claimed 2-18.
Man-of-the-series Lamichhane finished as the leading wicket takers with 16 wickets ahead of his skipper Airee, who claimed 13 wickets, was adjudged the best bowler. Sunar was the second highest run scorer with 143, only behind tournament’s best batsman—Siddhant (173) of Singapore.
Coach Binod Das said Nepal once again showcased their talent, indicating a bright future ahead. “Nepal has always been a dominant force at this level but the trouble back home in recent times had contributing to the poor performance,” said the former national team skipper. “We will return home with so many positives from this event. Our performance will also motivate us to put on a good show in the Asia Cup.”