Biratnagar win thrilling final over Kathmandu

Mahesh Acharya

Kathmandu, January 1:

Unil Shrestha scored an unbeaten half century as Biratnagar defended their Birendra Memorial National League Cricket Tournament title with one wicket win over Region No 3 (Kathmandu) in a thriller here today. Unil Shrestha was the hero of the day with his timely half century which rescued his team from early setbacks as Biratnagar won the title for the fourth consecutive year.

Put into bat after Biratnagar skipper Dipendra Chaudhari won the toss, Kathmandu scored 162 runs losing eight wickets in their stipulated 35 overs, riding on tailender Raju Basnet’s unbeaten half century.

No 8 batsman Basnet hit four boundaries and a six in his 39-ball knock. Basnet was injured diving for a single in the last over. Later he was taken to hospital and X-ray reports suggested that he had a broken left-hand thumb.

Basnet was involved in the innings’ highest partnership of 53 runs with Abhaya Rana for the eighth wicket. Rana scored a quick fire 20 off 16 balls including three hits to the fence.

Opener and skipper Paresh Lohani scored 15 off 23 balls before being the victim of Manjeet Shrestha in the eighth over. No 3 Sharad Vesawkar (1) fell soon after when he was run out by a direct throw from Yashwant Subedi.

Paras Khadka, who scored 14 off 27 balls, was the third wicket to fall at the hands of Santosh Baral, while non-striking opener Rikesh Lama who got a life on 28 after wicketkeeper Manoj Katuwal dropped him, went on to score 35 off 63 balls including four fours. Gyanendra Malla scored 15 off 25 balls before being run out.

For Biratnagar, Santosh Baral and Raj Kumar Pradhan took two wickets each, while Mehboob Alam and Manjeet Shrestha claimed one apiece. In reply, Biratnagar started badly but overcame the target losing nine wicket with four balls to spare. Opener Mehboob Alam, who hit Abhaya Rana for a six in the last ball of the first over, fell cheaply scoring 12 runs at the hands of Rana in the third over of the innings. Other opener Yashwant Subedi, who shared a brisk 35-run partnership with skipper Dipendra Chaudhary, was run out in a mix-up after scoring 24 off 36 balls. Chaudhary scored 13 off 29 balls.

No 4 batsman Unil Shrestha rescued his team with an unbeaten 55 off 67 balls which included one four and a six. Unil also became the highest scorer of the series with 181 runs.

Needing 17 runs from the last five overs with two wickets in hand, Man of the match Unil completed his 50 on the 33rd over with a single from Rikesh Lama while Lakpa Lama fell in the same over when Sharad Vesawkar took a brilliant catch at long off. Abhaya Rana conceded seven runs in the 34th over and Santosh Baral, who remained unbeaten on 6, hit the winning four off Rikesh in the second ball of the last over.

Binod Das of Birgunj, who took 13 wickets in the tournament, was declared the best bowler, while Biratnagar’s Dipendra Chaudhari, who scored 161 runs, won the best batsman’s award. Shakti Gauchan of Bhairahawa, who took 13 wickets and scored 168 runs, was named the man of the series.