An all-round Afghanistan denied Nepal the inaugural ACC Premier League with a huge 108-run victory at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday.
The last league match at the Kinrara Oval served as a final after Oman lost to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by 57 runs at the Bayuemas Oval where a victory could have given them a faint chance of lifting the title. Oman was tied on six points with Afghanistan and Nepal and their victory could have seen a battle of run rate between the two champions.
UAE not only followed Nepal, Afghanistan and Oman for December’s ACC Championship but also finished second in the table successfully defending a paltry 162 runs. UAE, Nepal and Oman all ended up earning six points each with the former finishing second on run rate. In another match, Hong Kong eased past Malaysia by four wickets.
The day belonged to Afghanistan after a solid opening spurred them to 262 all out in 49.3 overs. Afghanistan then almost shut it down even before rain had intervened reducing Nepal to 56-5 in 17 overs. After the resumption, Nepal was given a revised target of 237 runs in 32 overs before finishing at 128-9.
It was Nepal’s sixth loss to Afghanistan in their overall six meeting. Nepal had last defeated Afghanistan during the ACC Trophy plate final. Afghanistan came into the tournament resting experienced batsmen Mohammad Shahzad, Karim Sadiq, Nowroz Mangal and Asghar Stanikzai and in their absence their youngsters delivered in the crunch match.
Noor Ali Zadran and Usman Ghani added 98 runs for the opening wicket building a strong base for a huge total before Aarif Sheikh dismissed both the openers in a space of nine runs. Noor Ali was first to go for 43 off 59 hitting three fours and a six, while Usman made 51 off 61 clubbing eight boundaries and one maximum.
Shakti Gauchan removed new man Nasir Ahmadzai (20) and Raj Kumar Pradhan trapped big hitting Samiullah Shenwari (18) leg before wicket reducing Afghanistan to 157-4 in 34.1 overs. However, No 3 batsman Hasmatullah Shaidi and skipper Mohammad Nabi guided Afghanistan to a comfortable position with a 64-run stand.
Shakti finally got rid of Nabi for 34 and followed it with the wicket of set Shaidi who made 51 off 77 with three fours and a six. Shafiqullah pushed the Afghan total hitting three big sixes in his eight-ball 21. After Shafiqullah fell to Som Pal Kami, Basanta Regmi polished off the tail picking up three lower order wickets.
Nepal lost the match inside the first 13 overs when Dawlat Zadran removed Naresh Budhayer (10), Subash Khakurel (8), Gyanendra Malla (11) and Sharad Vesawkar (0) cheaply. Binod Bhandari (5) then threw his wicket to Amir Hamza as Nepal was reeling at 51-5 in 13 overs.
Rain made the matter worse for Nepal when they were set for 181 run to win from the last 15 overs. New man Aarif (one) ran himself out after the resumption and Basanta (eight) was next to go for eight, bowled by Nabi. Mirwais Ashraf then bowled skipper Paras Khadka as Nepal’s scores read 84-8 in 25.1 overs.
Shakti and Som Pal pushed the score towards respectability with a 41-run stand for the ninth wicket with both hitting 19 runs each. Shakti was dismissed by Ashraf in the third ball of the last over. Som Pal was later adjudged the best bowler of the tournament picking up 15 wickets from five matches.