Nepal lost to Afghanistan by five wickets in the ACC U-19 Premier, a loss that has effectively evaporated their hopes of qualifying directly for the ICC U-19 World Cup.
After beginning the tournament with two big victories owing to a power packed performance from their batsmen, Nepal’s batting frailties against a strong side was once again exposed when they were bundled out for just 134 in 45 overs. Afghanistan reached 137-5 in 36 overs.
Nepal were also bundled out for 115 runs against Malaysia only for their bowlers to deliver at a right time for a 53-run victory. But against an Afghanistan team that recently defeated Pakistan U-19 2-1 in their warm-up series, a fight back from the bowlers was hard to be expected.
Afghanistan firmly lead the six-team round-robin league tournament eight points from four straight victories and only an unlikely huge margin defeat to winless Kuwait can deny them a direct qualification to the World Cup.
Nepal will now look to defeat the United Arab Emirates and finish at least second in the table to reignite their junior World Cup chances through Continental Playoff. A victory against UAE will see Nepal meet the runners-up from the Africa, East Asia-Pacific, Americas and Europe in the Continental Playoff.
Nepal had a modest start in the game when new opening pair of Sunil Dhamala and Sandip Sunar began with a 37-run stand for the first wicket. Rashid Khan then jolted the top order with three wickets including both openers.
Sunil made 17 off 39 and Sandip scored 16 off 23 with three boundaries. Sunil hit two fours. Prem Tamang was another victim of Khan dismissed for a 17-ball duck. Skipper Raju Rijal and Yogendra Karki tried to stay at the crease collecting 34 runs but Nepali innings crumbled with the dismissal of the Nepali captain.
Tariq Stanikzai removed Raju after bowling five consecutive maiden overs. Raju made 21 off 61 with three boundaries, while Yogendra was frustrating in his 23 off 75 balls hitting one boundary. Aarif Sheikh (10), Saurav Khanal (13) and Dipendra Airee (10) were other batsmen to reach double figures.
Khan ended up picking 4-22 from nine overs, while Zia-ur-Rehman and Shahidullah picked up two wickets each.
Afghanistan though lost three wickets for 56 runs in reply they were right in the chase with a healthy run rate. Shahidullah and Shawkat Zaman ended any hopes of Nepal comeback with a 52-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Shahidullah made 52 off 59 with three fours and three sixes, while Zaman made 27 off 71 without hitting a single boundary. Prem picked up 2-31 from seven overs with Irshad Ahmed, Saurav and Sunil picking up one each.