Binod Bhandari blasted 51 runs off just 23 balls as Nepal crushed Papua New Guinea (PNG) by seven wickets in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
Nepal needed a victory after losing their third match to Scotland on Monday and Bhandari was instrumental in handing team third victory. Skipper Paras Khadka destroyed a strong top order of PNG before their innings folded for 140-6. After a cautious start from the openers, Bhandari smashed six sixes and a boundary taking Nepal to 141-3 in 18.2 overs.
Following the victory, Nepal stay at the second spot on net run rate after they were tied on six points with Group ‘B’ leaders the Netherlands. Kenya, PNG, Bermuda and Afghanistan have four points each. Bermuda and Afghanistan have played three games each.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayake brought Pradeep Airee back for the game but still went with the opening combination of Subash Khakurel and Sagar Pun and the openers gave a flying start scoring 11 runs from Norman Vanua’s first over.
The two openers gave Nepal a 36-run stand — the biggest for Nepal in the tournament so far. Sagar, who hit a six in the first over, was bowled by Chris Amini for 10 runs. Subash played sensibly punishing the loose balls and added 21 runs more with Gyanendra Malla.
Subash ran himself out in the 11th over making 38 off 37 with four boundaries and a six. Gyanendra then departed for 10 that brought Bhandari on the crease. Bhandari took time to settle down getting off the mark in the fifth ball and cleared his intentions hitting Mahuru Dai for a six in the 14th over.
Nepal required 51 runs off the last 31 balls but Bhandari eased off the pressure smashing Charles Amini for two sixes in the 16th over where Nepal scored 16 runs. Nepal scored 15 runs in the 17th over and 12 in the 18th with Bhandari hitting one six each in both and needed just eight to score from the last 12 balls.
Man-of-the-match Bhandari finished off the match in style with six off Chris Amini bringing on a much-deserved half century. Paras remained unbeaten on 26 off 19 with one six and a four giving much of the strike to Bhandari in their 71-run unbeaten stand that came off just 37 balls.
Earlier, seamer Amrit Bhattarai gave Nepal the breakthrough removing Assad Vala (nine) but another opener Tony Ura — who has already hit a century and half century in three matches — scared Nepal with some blazing shots.
Paras struck in his first ball of the day bowling Kipa Pala (one) with his off spin. The skipper broke PNG backbone getting rid of Ura (22) and another dangerous man Christopher Kent (three) in quick succession.
PNG scores read 78-5 after 13 overs when Amrit had Charles Amini (three) dismissed. Geraint Jones — the former England international who has the experience of playing 34 Tests and 49 one-day matches — displayed his skills hitting four sixes in his 53-ball 55 but before he could do much damage, Jitendra Mukhiya sent him back with Paras taking the catch.
Muhuru played some powerful strokes to push PNG to a respectable total hitting two sixes and two boundaries in his 22-ball 37. Nepal will play their fifth match of the tournament against the Netherlands on Wednesday.