HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
SHARJAH: Nepal ended their 14-year long wait to defeat the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after overcoming the hosts by four wickets in the ACC Trophy Elite Group ‘B’ opener here at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium today.
After Shakti Gauchan’s five-for saw UAE bundle out for a below-par 133 in 40.5 overs, Anil Mandal’s composed half century (63 runs) took Nepal beyond the victory target in 45.2 overs for the loss of six wickets. Nepal had played UAE for the first time in then-named ACC Trophy in 1998 at the home soil and lost the match by 94 runs. It took Nepal 14-years after that match to finally overcome their old foes and in the process had lost to the UAE five times.
With the UAE touted as the favourites from the group which also includes Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Nepal have opened the gates to finish as the winners in the pool. Hong Kong today hammered Saudi Arabia by 209 runs.
Nepal had a disastrous start in their chase after opener Subash Khakurel (one) was run out and skipper Paras Khadka and Gyanendra Malla falling to Manjula Guruge for four runs each when the team had scored just 11 runs in 6.3 overs.
With a low target to chase, Anil and Sharad Vesawkar adopted defensive approach on their way to share a 37-run partnership in 108 balls. Sharad hit one boundary — the third in Nepali innings that came after 98 balls — in his 51-ball 16 before he was caught behind off Arshad Ali. Pradeep Airee then joined Anil at the centre and the duo added some quick runs with the former becoming more aggressive in his 24-ball 17 that included two sixes.
Anil and Pradeep added 46 runs for the fifth wicket in 54 balls taking Nepal close to triple figures, and the target. Pradeep’s brief but productive stay at the crease ended after he fell to Guruge in the 34th over. Mandal brought his 50 in the next over with a single off Khurram Khan. And just as it looked Anil will carry his bat to victory, he top edged a catch to Mohammad Azam off Ali.
Anil hit five boundaries in his marathon 129-ball innings. New man Prithu Baskota made sure Nepal were not pegging back with his unbeaten 15 off 24 that included two boundaries. Shakti was unbeaten on eight off 29.
Earlier, Shakti returned with the figures of 5-32 in 8.5 overs as UAE batsmen succumbed to Nepali spinners after Paras and Amrit Bhattarai took one wickets each with their seam bowling in the UAE top order. Basanta Regmi was impressive as usual with his 3-13 from a six-over spell.
In a sorry looking UAE scorecard, Mohammad Azam made 33 off 25, while Khurram Khan made 20. Nepal will now play Kuwait on Saturday at the Al Dhaid Stadium. In Group ‘A’, Afghanistan defeated Malaysia by 36 runs and Oman routed Bhutan by 312 runs.