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Babar shines again, Paras peaks as Warriors in final

Biratnagar Warriors’ clinical display in the Everest Premier League (EPL) continued in the tournament as they raced to the final with a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over Bhairahawa Gladiators on Wednesday. 

Electing to field first, Warriors restricted Gladiators to 127-8 in 20 overs. They then reached 131-2 in 16.5 overs. 

Gladiators will now meet the winners of Wednesday’s Eliminator match between Pokhara Rhinos and Lalitpur Patriots in Thursday’s second Qualifier.

Aasif Sheikh’s poor form with the bat continued in the sixth match as well after he was dismissed for a duck in the first over. Hong Kong duo Babar Hayat and Anshuman Rath once again combined for another big partnership — 74-run stand — for Warriors.

Gladiators finally heaved a sign of relief after Puneet Mehra got the prized scalp of Hayat who made 62 off 44 with five sixes and four boundaries. Hayat is the leading scorer of the tournament with 306 runs.

Although Gladiators got rid of dangerman Hayat, they had a long Warriors batting line up followed by skipper Paras Khadka. Paras hit Puneet for a six in the first ball he faced.

Paras and Anshuman negotiated with the chase adding 55 runs for the third wicket. Paras struck four sixes — two of them against his opposite number Sharad Vesawkar — and two boundaries in his quickfire 42 off 24 balls.

Anshuman was unbeaten on 26 off 32 with two boundaries.

Earlier, Aarif Sheikh and Puneet Mehra had pushed Bhairahawa Gladiators to a respectable total after Warriors controlled the game from the outset reducing Gladiators to 27-4 in 8.1 overs. 

With runs hard to come by under morning conditions, Gladiators struggled in the first 12 overs before Aarif began to up the ante hitting Sri Lankan bowler Sahan Adeesha for two consecutive sixes in the 15th over. 

Gladiators Indian recruit Puneet Mehra gave good support before he also began to cut lose in the closing overs. Mehra also struck Adeesha for two back-to-back boundaries in the same over. The two batsmen shared 82 runs for the fifth wicket. 

Adeesha, whose previous figures read 7-2 in three overs, ultimately returned with 29-2 in four overs.

Puneet top scored for Gladiators with a 34-ball 49 with three sixes and as many boundaries. Aarif scored 46 off 35 with three sixes and one boundary. 

Karan KC also picked up two wickets for Warriors, while Paras Khadka, Basanta Regmi and Avinash Karn had one scalp apiece.

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