No one saw it coming. A game that became a dead rubber mid-way through the second innings ultimately turned out to be one of the classics of domestic cricket.
Paras Khadka had just hit a century, his first in domestic one-dayers, laying the foundation for Bagmati Province’s 266 all out in 48.4 overs. In the final league match of the Mayor’s Cup at the TU grounds where both Tribhuvan Army Club and Bagmati needed a victory with huge margin, the latter notched up highest team total of the tournament.
At the tricky Mulpani pitch, Nepal APF Club had bundled out Mayor XI for just 177. An ordinary victory was enough for APF to make it through, while Mayor XI needed exponentially huge margin victory to strike their luck.
Lokesh Bam’s early fireworks (38-ball 46) kept Army on heels of Bagmati on net run rate at the TU grounds. Bam fell and despite a half century stand between Rohit Kumar Paudel and captain Binod Bhandari, Army were reeling at 152-7 by the 27th over.
A victory with huge margin looked inevitable for Bagmati. But at the other end of the city, APF confirmed their final tickets after a century stand between their skipper Sharad Vesawkar and Sundeep Jora shaped a seven-wicket victory.
The match in Kirtipur, where just three good balls was enough for everyone to get back home, now carried no significance but it became a match that no scorecard or match summary would suffice.
Bhandari had looked fluent in his half century stand with Rohit and he continued to play with ease, hitting big sixes and letting go balls on good length. Bit-by-bit, he built the innings with Karan KC taking his side to an unlikely victory.
The only blemish for Bhandari was when he edged spinner Sonu Devkota in the 41st over but survived after the ball beat wicketkeeper Aakash Thapa and Paras only got his fingers despite a long stretch from the first slip. The former Nepal captain and Nandan Yadav’s cameo had dragged Bagmati to 266 but it seemed the day belonged to Bhandari.
He completed a well-deserved his century off left arm spinner Ariyo Poudel in the next over. The 19-year old Ariyo, into his second full national tournament, then enticed Karan for a big heave only to hole out a catch straight to Ramnaresh Giri. In the same over, Bhandari slammed Ariyo for a six.
Needing just 24 from 36, Bhandari let go seamer Ramnaresh in the 45th and kept the strike for the 46th. Ariyo came in again and was clobbered for a six by the Army skipper who also scampered for two doubles.
Army needed just 13 from 25 and as Bhandari stepped forward to steal a single off the last ball from Ariyo, the 19-year old foxed the 31-year old getting him stumped by Aakash. The Army captain was floored, taking ages to reach the dug out. Ariyo completed the formality, trapping last man Jitendra Mukhiya leg before as Bagmati walked away with a 10-run win.
Bagmati: 266 all out in 49.4 overs (Paras Khadka 119, Nandan Yadav 42; Sompal Kami 5-65)
Tribhuvan Army: 256 all out in 47.1 overs (Binod Bhandari 119, Lokesh Bam 46; Ariyo Poudel 5-46, Ramnaresh Giri 2-55)
Bagmati win by 10 runs
Man-of-the-match: Ariyo Poudel