Nepal lost to Papua New Guinea by two wickets in their first of the two matches in the World Cricket League Championship in Abu Dhabi on Monday where a puzzling bowling selection from skipper Paras Khadka cost them the match.
Electing to bat first, Nepal made 232-8 in 50 overs where half centuries from Sharad Vesawkar and Subash Khakurel pushed the team towards respectability. Nepal were closing in on victory reducing PNG to 138-6 before a defiant knock from Assad Vala guided them to 235-8 in 49.3 overs.
While Nepal's innings was built on a hard work from Subash and Sharad, few questionable decisions from Paras left everyone puzzled.
Paras and Mehboob Alam picked up two wickets each to unsettle PNG in their chase at 97-4. Things was still going well for Nepal despite Vala sharing 37 runs with Mahuru Dai (15) for the fifth wicket with a run out of the latter and Sagar Pun's dismissal of Jack Vare left PNG tottering at 138-6.
As Vala began rebuilding the innings with Charles Amini, Paras refrained from bringing in veteran off spinner Shakti Gauchan who shared the new ball with Sompal Kami and had the figures of 3-1-10-0.
Paras, instead, brought Shakti in the 43rd over and by that time the match was already out of Nepal's grip. Paras even didn't chose to bring himself on for the defence operating inexperienced Irshad Ahmed, who was making his debut, and Sagar Pun along with expensive Sompal Kami.
Shakti did bowl well in his return spell conceding just nine runs in four overs including a wicket of Vala but Paras' decision to hold him back had already backfired. '
Even when PNG needed six runs from the last over with only tail enders left in the game, Paras chose to hand spinner Basanta Regmi the ball who was neither able to pick wickets nor stem the run flow.
Vala shared a match-winning partnership for the seventh wicket with Amini who made 35 off 42 with four boundaries. When Vala was out in the 49th over, PNG were just eight runs away from victory. Their tail enders hung on for the win.
Vala made 87 off 107 balls with six boundaries. Earlier, Nepal lost in-form opener Anil Mandal (first ball duck) and Sagar Pun (10) at 29-2 before Subash and Gyanendra Malla forged a 47-run third wicket stand.
Nepal, however, lost Gyanendra for 23 and Paras for six in space of 10 runs as the scores read 86-4 in 22.3 overs.
Subash and Sharad then stuck to the crease with a 56-run partnership before Nepal lost the former. Subash completed his maiden half century in List A making 63 off 104 with two fours. Nepal soon lost Sompal (eight) and Mehboob (three) at 174-7.
Sharad continued to impress sharing an important 52-run stand with Basanta Regmi, who made 24 not out from 23 balls. Sharad made 78 off 72 with five boundaries. It was his highest score in List A. Vala also starred with the ball picking up three wickets.
Nepal VS PNG 1st match score-card