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Nepal enter maiden final of ACC Twenty20

Nepal entered their first ever ACC Twenty20 Cup final with a revengeful six-wicket victory over the United Arab Emirates at the TU Cricket Ground. Nepal will now meet three-time defending champions Afghanistan — who beat Hong Kong by seven wickets in the other semi-final match — on Wednesday.  On a day when youngsters won the match for the hosts, Nepal restricted UAE to 133-9 before reaching 134-4 in 19.1 overs. Nepal also took a revenge of their six-wicket loss to UAE in the group stage of the previous edition held in Kathmandu.

Hard hitting Binod Bhandari was the key in Nepal’s victory with his two sixes in the penultimate over shifting the momentum completely to Nepal’s way. Nepal needed 18 runs from last 12 balls and Binod eased off the pressure hitting Arshad Ali for a six on the first ball. After two singles and a double, Binod slammed another six above the long-on leaving Nepal with only two runs to get from the last over. Skipper Paras Khadka completed the chase with a double towards fine leg. 

Paras has never doubted Binod’s abilities. “He is a man who can take Nepal across the finishing line. He has all the abilities of a quality batsman and he did what he is capable of,” said Paras. Asked what he told the batsman at the crease in the 19th over Paras recalled: “I told him that we believe in you.”

After being knocked out in the ACC Twenty20 group stages in 2007 and 2009 editions, Nepal reached the semi-finals in the previous edition. With their first berth in ACC Twenty20 Cup final, Nepal now have a chance to win third consecutive international title after winning the ICC World Cricket League Division-IV and ACC Trophy Elite last year.  Earlier, openers Pradeep Airee and Subash Khakurel (22) began on positive note with a 61-run partnership. Pradeep made the most of two dropped chances adding 39 with Gyanendra Malla (20) and completed his half century in 45 balls. Nepal were well-placed at 110-2 after 17 overs but Fayyaz Ahmed brought UAE back in the match dismissing Pradeep and Basanta on the first two balls of the 18th over.

Pradeep hit four boundaries and two sixes making 58 off 57. It was his second half century of the tournament. After collecting only six runs in Fayyaz over, Binod took Nepal across the finishing line. Binod hit 16 off six and Paras was unbeaten on 10. 

UAE came into the match as Group ‘B’ winners but they struggled throughout after Prithu Baskota took two early wickets. Prithu took three for 20 from four overs. Swapnil Patil top scored for UAE with a 37-ball 33. Shakti Gauchan (2-21) and Basanta (2-24) shared four wickets between them. Prithu and Pradeep were declared joint men-of-the-match.

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