Airee bowls Nepal into final

Kathmandu, February 10:

Pradeep Airee completed a five-wicket haul as Nepal fought back to register a 21-run semi-final victory over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the ACC U-17 Elite Cup here today. The hosts will play against Malaysia, who defeated Qatar by 55 runs, in Thursday’s final.

Electing to bat first at the Tribhuvan University Stadium, Nepal managed just 144-9 in 40 overs. The UAE were nicely placed at 92-2 but were eventually dismissed for 123 in 39 overs thanks largely to man of the match Airee and left-arm seamer Avinash Karn, who turned the key to Nepal with two wickets in two balls.

Shaaz Ahmed inflicted an early damage reducing the hosts to 20-2 by the sixth over. Ahmed bowled Sagar Pun (one) in the second over and had Kirten Gurung (six) caught behind by wicketkeeper Ritik Bakshi. Aakash Singh Pariyar and skipper Prithu Baskota rescued the hosts with a stand of 48 runs for the third wicket. Pariyar scored 31 off 46 balls while Baskota made 41-ball 25.

Nepali innings collapsed after Sidhartha Sekhar had skipper Baskota caught by Saurabh Kant Gir in the 16th over. The hosts lost their next six wickets for 46 runs before the unbroken last wicket stand of 30 runs between No 7 batsman Bhuwan Karki (27) and Avinash Karn (eight) gave some respectability to their total. Sidhartha Sekhar (3-21) and skipper Mohammad Salaar Wagar (3-16) claimed three wickets each while Shaaz Ahmed took 2-37 for the UAE.

In reply, the UAE had a steady start before Airee struck for Nepal in the seventh over uprooting Waqar’s (eight) wicket. Airee struck twice again in his next over to reduce the UAE to 25-3. Airee bowled Venkata Krishnan Bargav (naught) in the third ball of the ninth over before trapping Ameya Jayant Dieghe (naught) leg before wicket two balls later.

But opener Reuben Zac Abraham, who was dropped on four, and Saurabh Kant Gir (28) frustrated the Nepali bowlers with the fourth wicket stand of 68. The match was far from over as Karn made a double strike in the 29th over to reduce the UAE to 93-5. Karn bowled Gir in the first ball and won the LBW verdict against Sidharth Shekhar (naught) in the next ball. Skipper Prithu dismissed Shaaz Ahmed (11) and Airee got rid of Waleed Ahmed (naught).

With the danger man Abraham still on the crease, the match would have easily swung the UAE’s way. But the hosts gained the upper hand when Abraham was run out in the 37th. Abraham struck six fours in his 105-ball 59. Airee and Prithu took the next two wickets to seal a 21-run win. Airee finished with 5-29 while Karn (2-14) and Baskota (2-16) claimed two wickets apiece.

At Pulchowk Engineering College, Malaysia were all out for 171 in 39.1 overs before restricting Qatar to 116 in 33 overs. Zubair Asyraf Nurazhi top scored with 44 and Ahmad Zahid Adnan made 30 for Malaysia.

In a match played to decide the seventh and eighth place, Singapore beat Kuwait by three wickets.