Nepal in dire need of regular opening pair

Kathmandu, October 16:

Nepal registered an emphatic win over Hong Kong in the three-day version of the game when the Roy Luke Dias’ men defeated the visitors by 165 runs in the ACC Premier League match on Sunday.

The match was under Nepal’s grip from the first day when the hosts scored 217 runs taking six Hong Kong wickets, though Nepali batsmen struggled at the morning session. Mehboob Alam rescued Nepal in the first innings before Sharad Vesawkar punished the Hong Kong bowlers to reclaim their supremacy among the non-Test playing countries.

The second day saw Hong Kong bowled out for just 136 runs as Nepal took 81-run lead and the hosts built on their lead to 267 runs at the close of the day but not before top-order batsmen continued with their dissapointing performance.

However, vice captain Paras Khadka, ably supported by Under-19 World Cup hero Basanta Regmi and skipper Binod Das, turned the match into Nepal’s favour. After the dismal performance by the Nepali top-order, the match could have gone either way but it was Khadka who pulled Nepal out from the mire with his patient 87-run knock.

Nepal declared its second innings early in the morning session after Das and Khadka got out, setting a 305 runs target with more than two-and-half sessions left. Disciplined Nepal bowling rocked Hong Kong, who could muster only 139 runs in the second innings.

Despite the win, Nepali team exposed some of their weaknesses. Batsmen struggled for runs on the first two sessions on first day and were under tremendous pressure losing five wickets with just 180-run lead in the second innings. Bowlers, too, had tough time getting rid of three Hong Kong tailenders in the first innnings. They took 93 minutes to wrap up the innings.

The inconsistent batting and bowling performance of the home team could be excused for the absence of three key players. Regular opener Kanishka Chaugain went to the US for studies; medium-pacer Dhirendra Chand and allrounder Shakti Gauchan were ruled out due to injuries.

Bowling is not the real concern as Nepal can regain their edge as soon as Chand gets fit. Additional bowling strength will be added with the return of Gauchan. But, the serious problem would be to find a consistent opening partner for Paresh Lohani — the prolific run-getter for Nepal.

In the absence of Chaugain, coach Roy Luke Dias handed Mahesh Chhetry the responsibility to open with Lohani. The pair was a total failure as they could add only 37 and 12 runs in two innings. Coach Dias was also aware of the problem. “In Kanishka’s absence, I had no choice but to go with Mahesh,” he said after the match. Gyanendra Malla would have been the better option but Dias needed him at the middle order, especially when Gauchan was not in the team.

However, Dias was optimistic for the coming matches. “If the injured players return in the squad, we can go with Gyanendra Malla as we will have Shakti to hold the innings in the middle,” added the former Sri Lankan Test batsman.

But the experimentation of reshuffling the batting order might create more problems for the team. Malla has been opening in the one-day version and failure in three-day form could lead the team into unwanted trouble. So ‘the best way to escape from a problem is to solve it’ and to solve it permanently the team management need to find a regular opener partner.

CAN announces squad

Kathmandu: Cricket Association of Nepal on Monday announced the 14-member squad for the three-day matches against the UAE and Singapore under the ACC Premier League Tournament. The selection committee retained almost the same squad that beat Hong Kong on Sunday.

Medium-pacer Dhirendra Chand and allrounder Shakti Gauchan — who missed the Hong Kong match due to injuries — were recalled while Amrit Bhattarai and Akash Gupta were axed out.

Binod Das will lead the squad, and Shakti Gauchan will be his deputy. Other members in the squad included Paresh Lohani, Paras Khadka, Raj Kumar Pradhan, Mehboob Alam, Sharad Vesawkar, Basanta Regmi, Mahesh Chhetri, Sanjam Regmi, Gynanendra Malla, Manoj Katuwal, and Antim Thapa.

Amrit Bhattarai, Prem Chaudhary, Aakash Gupta and Bijay Thapa have been kept in the reserve list. Nepal will play against the UAE from November 4-6 in UAe and host Singapore from November 10-12.