Nepal’s Afghanistan voodoo resumed from the 17th Asian Games as they were pipped by eight runs by the second string side of their archrivals in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. Nepal had defeated Afghanistan in the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh earlier this year. The victory at cricket’s grandest stage had ended a nine-year domination of Afghanistan in the shorter version of the game and just when it seemed the winning ways against the archrivals will continue, the team terribly crashed out after the top and lower-middle order capitulated.
Nepal sniffed victory when they folded Afghanistan innings for just 119-9 in 20 overs on a Yeonhui Cricket Ground pitch that was difficult to bat on. Nepal once again went close with some fierce hitting from Binod Bhandari but finished with 111-7.
The win also deprived Nepal a chance to win a medal in the Asian Games to calm the Nepali contingent that has been left frustrated by not having a podium finish with 13 days running.
Nepal had a disastrous reply to their chase when they lost openers Naresh Budhayer (seven) for a run out and Subash Khakure (five) with just 13 runs on the board. Hard-hitting Bhandari was promoted to No 3 and with skipper Paras Khadka (1) took the team total to 30.
Paras, who never looked comfortable at the crease and scored his first run after 11 runs, was undone by a fine delivery from leg spinner Shamiullah Shenwari. Paras stepped out of the crease to punish a ball that went away from him but he missed it giving wicketkeeper Qaseem Khan to stump the Nepal keeper.
Bhandari, meanwhile, continued his onslaught from the other end and brought Nepal back into the game with Gyanendra Malla. Two shared 54 runs for the fourth wicket taking Nepal to a winning position until the 15th over but as Bhandari was bowled by Fareed Ahmed turned the tide.
Bhandari lost his wicket to Ahmed after making a 40-ball 48 and in the last ball of the over, Nepal’s reliable finisher Sharad Vesawkar was dismissed for a second ball duck following a commuication lapse with Gyanendra. Bhandari hit three sixes and a boundary.
Nepal were still in the game when Gyanendra and Basanta Regmi (eight) lifted the team from 84-5 with an 18-run partnership but once again Ahmed dealt a hammer blow. Ahmed bowled both batsmen in a space of five balls to end Nepal’s challenge when they needed 18 from the last 12 balls.
Gyanendra made 30 from 32 in his boundary less innings. Sagar Pun (six) and Shakti Gauchan (three) could do nothing much in the last over. Ahmed was the star of the day picking up 4-17 from his four-over spell.
Earlier, Afghanistan almost revolved around one single innings from Mohammed Shahzad who made 42 from 34 with three fours and three sixes. Afghanistan had identical start when they lost experienced Karim Sadiq (one) and Najeeb Tarakai (nine) with just 12 runs on board.
Shahzad combined for two crucial partnerships that provided a lift to Afghanistan innings. He shared 34 runs with Shamiullah Shenwari (11) and 35 with Mohammed Nabi (18). Shakti Gauchan dismissed all three experienced batsmen.
Shakti returned with 21-3 from four overs and Sagar took 3-24 from his four. Basanta Regmi and Som Pal Kami picked up two wickets each.