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Afghans deny Nepal maiden title

KATHMANDU :- Afghanistan denied Nepal their first ever ACC Twenty20 Cup title pulling off an easy seven-wicket victory at the TU Stadium.

Skipper Paras Khadka once again rescued his team from a slide as Nepal recovered from 41-3 after 10 overs to 135-6 in the end. Afghanistan dealt with the total professionally and reached 137-3 in 17.5 overs. The loss also ended Nepal’s hopes of claiming three consecutive titles under coach Pubudu Dassanayake — who had guided Nepal to title triumphs in the ICC World Cricket League Division-IV and ACC Trophy Elite last year. Afghanistan, meanwhile, cruised to their fourth consecutive ACC Twenty20 title. 

Afghanistan were already defeated by UAE in the group stage. After the hosts made short work of UAE in the semi-finals, the crowd was expecting an evenly-contested duel in the final. But Afghanistan took a strong grip in the match  sending back  Subash Khakurel (10), Pradeep Airee (one) and Gyanendra Malla (10) in 4.3 overs and conceded only 41 runs with half of Nepali innings completed.

Dassanayake said his side lost the match in the first six overs. “We lost three quick wickets which left the new batsmen with no luxury to go after big shots,” said the coach. Paras and Binod Bhandari took time to settle down before a six off Hamza Hotak signaled Nepal’s recovery from the 11th over.

Binod lofted Samiullah Shenwari for a six over mid-wicket in the 12th over that fetched Nepal 13 runs. Nepal collected 15 runs from the 15th over bowled by Mohammad Nabi. The face-saving 71-run partnership came to an end when Binod handed a catch to Aftab Alam off Hotak in the 17th over. Binod made 32 off 39 with three fours and a six.

After Binod’s exit, Paras punished Nabi in an eventful 18th over. The Nepal skipper hit Nabi for two fours and a six, completed his second half century of the tournament with a single off the fifth ball but a terrible mix-up with Sharad Vesawkar saw himself run out that silenced the electrifying crowd. Paras hit two sixes and four boundaries in 40 deliveries. Sharad compensated for the skipper’s loss hitting three boundaries in the last over that gave Nepal 17 runs. Sharad remained unbeaten on 20 from 11 balls. 

Afghanistan made a cautious start but once opener Karim Sadiq hit seamer Amrit Bhattarai for two consecutive fours, runs kept coming with an ease for them. Karim (32) added 43 runs for the first wicket with Gulbadin Naib in seven overs before Prithu Baskota ran him out. Nepali bowlers delighted the crowd with the wickets of Najibullah Zadran (15) and Samiullah (nine) but experienced Nabi and Naib completed the chase with an unbeaten 54-run stand. 

Man-of-the-match Naib — who took two early wickets — made 43 off 42 with one six and a four, while Nabi made 38 off 23 with six hits to the fence. Basanta Regmi and Shakti Gauchan took one wicket each for Nepal. Paras said it was sad to lose the final but termed his side’s progress this far as an achievement.

“Everyone contributed for the team especially the young ones,” said the skipper after receiving man-of-the-series award for his 207 runs and four wickets. Afghanistan coach Raees Ahmadzai was an ecstatic man. “It was a very good win because we rested six of our national players. We gave chance to our youngsters and they did very well. We had set a plan before the match and that worked for us. Our players dealt with the target professionally,” said Ahmadzai. 

UAE, meanwhile, finished third after defeating Hong Kong by 32 runs before the final match began at the TU Stadium. UAE made 166-7 with a half century from Amjad Javed (51). Hong Kong, in reply, were restricted to 134-8 after Shadeep Silva took three wickets.


Team gets cash Paras rides bike  

The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) honoured the Nepali team with a cash prize of Rs 50,000 each to the member promptly after finishing second in the ACC Twenty20 Cup. CAN General Secretary Ashok Nath Pyakurel handed over the cheques to 14 players, coach Pubudu Dassanayake and team manager Sanjeev Pandey. National team skipper Paras Khadka was awarded with a Pulsar motorcycle by Hansraj Hulaschand and Company Pvt Ltd. Also, Sachdeva Entrance Preparation presented Rs 50,000 to the team.

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