A few months ago, coach Pubudu Dassanayake had said Nepal have left it’s batting frailties way behind. The quote was approved when Dassanayake’s battalion piled a record 210-5 against Singapore in the ACC Twenty20 Trophy today.
Singapore were already out of the tournament and chasing the mammoth against Nepal was the toughest nut to crack and they capitulated at 89 all out in 15.1 overs. The victory put Nepal in the semi-finals and most importantly booked a place in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers to be held in the UAE in November.
Binod Bhandari smashed a half century and other batsmen chipped in huge giving Nepal their highest ever total in this format of the game. It was also Nepal’s biggest ever victory in terms of runs, surpassing their 95-run win over Saudi Arabia in the 2011 edition held in Kathmandu. Nepal’s previous best Twenty20 score came against Saudi Arabia (183-5) in the same match.
Nepal finished Group ‘A’ runners-up with six points from four matches to join pool winners Hong Kong (eight points) in the last four. With the tournament sending two teams for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later this year, Nepal and Hong Kong made through from the region as UAE — being hosts — and Afghanistan — as an ODI nation — were pre-qualified. In the semi-finals on Tuesday, Nepal will take on Group ‘B’ winners UAE and Hong Kong will play runners-up Afghanistan.
In the match today, Nepal were jolted with an early dismissal of opener Subash Khakurel (five) but Pradeep Airee and Binod Bhandari, promoted to No 3, consolidated the innings with a 55-run stand for the second wicket. Pradeep made 30 off 32 with fours. Nepal were 64-2 after 8.4 overs when skipper Paras Khadka stepped in and runs started to flow.
Aggressive Binod hit Irfan Madakia for a four and two sixes in three consecutive deliveries in the 11th over to near his first Twenty20 half century. Binod moved to 48 with another six off Pramodh Raja and brought his half century with a single off Anish Param in the 14th over. The 72-run partnership between Paras and Binod ended when the latter holed out a catch to Madakia at long off in an Amjad Mahboob delivery. Binod made 54 off 34 with four sixes and three boundaries.
New man Gyanendra Malla smashed Saad Januja for three sixes and a four in the 17th over. Paras then handed a return catch to Anish after making 44 off 25 with four boundaries and a six. Param bowled Gyanendra two balls later after the bowler was hit for a six. Gyanendra made 30 runs in a 10-ball blitz. Sharad Vesawkar and Prithu Baskota gave Nepal a fine finish collecting 37 runs from last 12 balls.
Sharad smashed 26 off 11 with three sixes, while Prithu hit two boundaries in his four-ball nine. Singapore, in reply, never looked comfortable after Nepali bowlers struck at regular intervals. Basant Regmi took 3-17 from his four overs, while Shakti Gauchan returned with 2-13 from three. Chandra Sawad, Paras, Sagar Pun and Prithu took one wicket each.
Meanwhile, holders Afghanistan needed a four-wicket victory over Kuwait in their last Group ‘A’ match to enter the semi-finals. In another match, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) topped Group ‘A’ humbling Bahrain by 114 runs after scoring a tournament-high 226-5.
In a must-win match, Kuwait were 133 all out in 19.2 overs. Openers Karim Sadiq and Fazal Rahman led the foundation for Afghans with a 65-run partnership as the holders reached 136-6 in 19.1 overs. Karim made 42 off 37, while Fazal scored 24 off 21. Earlier, Yasar Idrees’ 64 off 40 balls helped Kuwait cross triple figures. At the TU Stadium, opener Abdul Shakoor clobbered 84 off 45 with 11 fours and five sixes in UAE onslaught. Bahrain, in reply, were restricted to 112-8.
Scorecard :- Nepal VS Singapore