Region No 2 (Birgunj) and Region No 4 (Bhairahawa) entered the semi-finals of the Pepsi Standard Chartered One Day National Cricket Tournament on Monday.
At the Rangashala grounds in Pokhara, Aarif Sheikh once again delivered with the bat as Birgunj routed Region No 8 (Pokhara) by 114 runs with their fourth win in a row making them Group ‘A’ champions. They have eight points from maximum four matches.
Bhairahawa defeated Region No 5 (Nepalgunj) by six wickets in Kirtipur and made an easy passage from Group ‘B’ with one league game yet to go. Bhairahawa have eight points at the top of the table with Region No 1 (Biratnagar) chasing them with four points from two games.
Birgunj made 224-9 after Aarif slammed his second half century of the tournament. Pokhara were 110 all out in reply in 34.4 overs. Dipesh Khatri top scored for Pokhara with 30 off 85 balls hitting three boundaries.
After Kiran Budhathoki and Ramnaresh Giri removed the openers, Kumar Thapa paralysed Pokhara with four middle order wickets. Ramnaresh took 3-18 and Kiran took two wickets.
Birgunj were 67-4 in 17 overs where opener Anil Shah scored 32 from 51 balls with four fours and two sixes. Aarif then shared 58 runs for the fifth wicket with Sunil Kadari (27). Birgunj were still heading towards an unsafe total when Aarif was dismissed after making 54 off 81 with seven hits to the fence.
Ramnaresh and Kumar (11) upped the ante with collecting 41 runs. Man-of-the-match Ramnaresh made 37 off 30 with two fours and a six. Nischal Pandey took three wickets and Karan KC had two scalps for the losing side.
Nepalgunj needed their No 8 and No 9 batsmen to push the total to 201 all out in 46.5 overs before Bhairahawa reached 202-6 in 30.1 overs. Bhairahawa were shaking at 44-4 but a 109-run partnership between Antim Thapa and Lal Bahadur Adhikari turned the tide.
When both set batsmen were dismissed by Nasir Ansari in a space of five runs, Bhairahawa still needed 44 runs in their chase which was coolly completed by Sushan Bhari Shrestha (20) and Prakash KC (11).
Man-of-the-match Lal Bahadur made 49 off 63 with eight fours and Antim scored 43 off 51 with five boundaries. Amar Singh Routela and Prajjwol Shahi also took two wickets each for Nepalgunj.
After Bhupendra Thapa (20) and Siddhanta Raj Shahi opened with a 39-run stand, Nepalgunj seemed like heading towards a comfortable total. But a middle order collapse saw them reduced to 100-7. Siddhanta made 45 off 76 hitting six boundaries.
No 8 Praveen Giri pushed Nepalgunj towards a respectable total adding 57 runs for the eight wicket with Aakash Bista (19) and 37 for the ninth with Amar Singh (17). Praveen top scored in the match making 53 from 57 balls with eight hits to the fence. Lal Bahadur, Sushan Bhari Shrestha and Rupesh Bastola took three wickets each for Bhairahawa.