Tribhuvan Army Club (TAC) threw down the gauntlet to title contenders Nepal APF Club on Wednesday after crushing a decent Region No 3 (Kathmandu) side by 10 wickets to finish their group stage campaign unbeaten in the Pepsi Standard Chartered National Cricket Tournament.
Already in the last four, TAC finished Group ‘A’ winners and will now meet Group ‘B’ runners-up Region-II (Birgunj) on Thursdaybefore APF play Kathmandu in the second semi-final at the TU Stadium.
TAC had narrowly won their first two matches against relatively weaker opponents but they gave a clear message to APF that their domination is now under severe threat after convincing victories in their last two. At the TU Stadium on Wednesday, TAC packed up Kathmandu for just 81 runs in 18 overs after man-of-the-match Lokendra Chand broke their rib with a triple blow in the middle order.
TAC answered with a solid 84 without loss in just 10.2 overs. Rupesh Srivastav reduced Kathmandu to 2-7 with two quick wickets in the second over and after Pawan Shrestha and Bivatsu Thapa consolidated with a 37-run stand, Lokendra stole the show with his firework.
Bowling in the 12th over, Lokendra dismissed Bivatsu in the second ball and Pawan in the fourth before celebrating his day with a prized-scalp of Som Pal Thapa (naught) in the sixth. New man Suraj KC offered some resistance collecting 27 runs with Suman Uday (seven) but the slide resumed with the run out of the latter.
Suraj made 19 off 14 with two sixes before losing his wicket to Rahul Kumar BK. Pawan made 19 off 24 and Bivatsu scored 17 off 37 with both batsmen hitting two fours apiece. Rahul also returned with 3-11 for TAC.
TAC were never troubled in their chase of the low total and their openers Sagar Pun and Anil Mandal perfectly delivered. Sagar made 37 off 32 stroking four boundaries and Anil scored a run-a-ball 32 with three fours. Both batsmen also hit a six each.
In an inconsequential Group ‘B’ match, Region-I (Biratnagar) defeated Region-VIII (Pokhara) by 19 runs. It was Biratnagar’s first victory that have come off their final league match.
Sunny Pun made a 57-ball 51 – his second half century in the tournament – as Biratnagar made 131-6. Dipesh Khatri replied with a superb 55 not out off 43 but still couldn’t lift Pokhara from 112-6 in 20 overs. Dipesh also took three wickets in Biratnagar innings.