Kathmandu :- U-19 player Pradeep Airee smashed a half century in Nepal’s 76-run victory over Group ‘A’ minnows Maldives as the hosts mad e a triumphant start today.
On a day when skipper Paras Khadka celebrated his 100th international match with a victory, an explosive 59 off 26 from opener Pradeep and good finishing from Sharad Vesawkar put Nepal at 171-5. Bowlers did the rest restricting Maldives to 95-7 in 20 overs.
After Mohamed Rizwan hit strike bowler Amrit Bhattarai for 14 runs in the third over, Paras gave Nepal the breakthrough removing the opener for 15. It was Paras’ 100th international wicket. Maldives were reeling at 30-4 by the seventh over and never looked like overhauling the target. No 8 Neesham Nasir top scored for Maldives with an 18-ball 20. Paras returned with figures of 2-7 from three overs. Basanta Regmi, Sanjam Regmi, Shakti Gauchan and Manjeet Shrestha – who was playing his first match after a two-year comeback in the national fold with Twenty20 team — took one wicket each. Earlier Pradeep spurred Nepal to 80 in just 6.2 overs, hitting eight boundaries and four sixes. The opener made his intentions clear from the very first over when he clobbered a six and a four off Ameel Mauroof. Nepal collected 24 from the third over bowled by Neesham with Pradeep alone hitting two sixes and two fours. Pradeep completed his half century with a four off Abdullah Shahid in the sixth over and was bowled through the leg side while attempting to sweep spinner Mohammed Safee. Pradeep said a century was playing in his mind. “After completing the half century in no time, I thought that I could smash a century today. But, I made a bad shot selection,” Pradeep said after the match.
Runs dried up after Pradeep’s dismissal and Nepal only added 41 from nine overs in the middle stage losing Gyanendra Malla (two), Subash Khakurel (20), Paras (10) and Binod Bhandari (15). Sharad and Manjeet lifted the run rate collecting 42 runs from the last four overs in the unbroken sixth-wicket stand. Sharad played a 36-run cameo of 18 balls hitting three fours and two sixes. Manjeet made 16-ball 20 with two fours.
Nepal’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake was happy with the desired result. “We were still short by some 20 to 25 runs but I am happy with the way we started. We have some areas to improve on and keep the momentum going against Hong Kong tomorrow (Wednesday),” said the coach hinting to field an unchanged squad for the second match. Skipper Paras was satisfied with the way the untried pitch behaved. “The ball was nicely coming on to the bat and Pradeep gave a good start. We were unable to cash in the momentum in the middle stage but Sharad made a good finishing,” said Paras. In another Group ‘A’ match, Hong Kong eased to a six-wicket victory over Malaysia. Hong Kong victory was inspired by a splendid knock from opener Irfan Ahmed. Malaysia were restricted to 103-9 before Hong Kong reached 108-4 in just 12 overs with a quick fire 87 from Irfan. The all rounder hit 10 boundaries and six sixes in just 37 balls.
In Group ‘B’, the United Arab Emirates UAE) and Afghanistan opened their campaign with easy victories. UAE beat Kuwait by five-wickets in a high-scoring thriller and Afghanistan defeated Oman by 44 runs.
Put into bat first, Kuwait scored a massive 172-7 with Yasar Idrees making 33-ball 46 and Saad Khalid. UAE completed the chase in 18.5 overs losing five of their batsmen. Abdul Shakoor (32), Amjad Ali (39), SP Patil (35), Rohan Mustafa (35 not out) and Mohammad Azam (20) all scored quick runs in UAE chase.
Afghanistan were bowled out for 150 runs in 18.5 overs and the champions dismissed Oman for 106 in 19.1 overs. Karim Sadiq top scored for Afghanistan with a quick-fire 46 from 27 balls and skipper Mohammad Nabi made 21-ball 32. Man-of-the-match Nabi also returned to take 4-18 to restrict Oman.