Amit Shrestha and Aarif Sheikh played one of the best innings at the TU Stadium under pressure that lifted Region No 2 (Birgunj) the Pepsi Standard Chartered One Day National Cricket Tournament on Monday.
In a rematch of the league stage where Birgunj had defeated APF and headed into the final being unbeaten, the defending champions were dismissed for 213 in 46.1 overs . At a time when APF missed seven members from the national team due to pre-tournament boycotting, the holders looked like defending their title reducing Birgunj to 31-4 inside 13 overs but Amit and Aarif calmly blasted.
The duo put on a superb 147-run stand in a partnership that had all cricketing shots and sense needed in a chase on a 50-over game. Taking a defensive approach after the flurry of wickets, the ACC U-19 Asia Cup playing pair punished bad balls and dealt with good length balls with an ease that was enough to frustrate APF bowlers.
Aarif collected some quick runs after the 30th over reaching his half century off 69 balls and Amit soon following his partner scoring 50 off 103 balls. APF did manage to break the partnership with Bhuwan Karki removing Aarif in the 42nd over but by then Birgunj were already inching closer to the target.
Aarif made 70 off 90 balls hitting eight boundaries. Birgunj then lost Shiva Tandukar (six) with scores reading 190-6 but Amit held his nerve before playing a rash shot off Sanjam Regmi when Birgunj needed four to win from the last eight balls.
Robin Gurung (13 not out) completed the chase after Sanjam removed Amit. The U-19 batsman made 88 off 140 in a marathon innings studded with eight fours. Bhuwan took 3-31 from 10 overs and Sanjam took 2-51 from nine.
Earlier, Paresh Lohani made 32 off 43 with seven boundaries but still APF were reeling at 56-4 in 16.2 overs. Dipendra Chaudhary (22) and Bhuwan (19) halted the charge with a 44-run stand but dismissal of both batsmen in a space of seven balls left them in dire straits at 102-6.
Aakash Gupta – seen after a long time in Nepali cricket and playing for APF this time – led a solid comeback smashing all across the park and sharing 90 runs for the seventh wicket with Bishal Adhikari. Aakash completed his half century in 37 balls before getting dismissed in 41st over by Kumar Thapa.
Aakash top scored with 69 from 45 balls hitting eight boundaries and four sixes. Bishal was unbeaten on 25 from 58 with three fours. Kumar took 4-47 from 10 overs and Ram Naresh Giri had 3-53 from 9.1 overs.
Winners Birgunj: Rs 150,000
Runners-up Nepal APF Club: Rs 100,000
Man-of-the-series Aarif Sheikh: Rs 25,000 (261 runs, 11 wickets)
Best Batsman Puspa Thapa: Rs 10,000 (211 runs)
Best Bowler Raj Kumar Pradhan: Rs 10,000 (20 wickets)
Emerging Player of the Tournament: Lalit Singh Bhandari (14 wickets)