Nepal inch closer to semi-finals

KATHMANDU; Record setting Nischal Pandey struck a half century and completed a five-wicket haul to help Nepal record a massive 101-run win over Kuwait in the ACC U-16 Elite Cup match at the Tribhuvan University Stadium today.

Left-arm spinner Nischal became the first Nepali allrounder to score a half century and take five wickets in an international match. The allrounder struck 82-ball 58 to help set a daunting 183 total for his team before returning with figures of 5-15 in eight overs to restrict Kuwait for 82 in 25 overs.

Put into bat by Kuwait, the home team made a solid start with openers Sharad Khadka and Nischal putting on 70 runs. Sharad was out on 33, stumped by wicketkeeper Zakaria Ali off Naser Rashi in the 16th over. The host lost Dipendra Chand (12), skipper Switchan Shah (naught), Sanam Shrestha (eight) and Sushan Bhari Shrestha (one) cheaply but Satish Bhagat consolidated the Nepali innings with an unbeaten 29. Nepal's innings ended when Rajiv Chaudhary (nine) was run out attempting three runs in the last ball of the 40th over. Naser Rashid and Ali Zaheer took three wickets each while Abdul Jabar took two for Kuwait.

Kuwait made a confident start making 37 from 8.1 over but Nischal broke the stand bowling Zakaria (20) the very next ball. Three balls later, the offspinner also dismissed Abdul Jabar (naught). Bibek Chaudhary then reduced Kuwait to 39-3 in 12th over, having Naser Rashed (12) caught by wicketkeeper Sanam Shrestha.

Ali Zaheer (27) and Ali Asgher (seven) tried to steady the Kuwaiti innings with a fourth wicket stand of 32 runs taking the total to 71-3. But man-of-the-match Nischal ended any remaining hopes of Kuwaiti fightback reducing them to 71-6 in the 21st over. The offspinner tapped Zaheer and Qasim Sadaqat Ali (naught) leg before wicket in the third and fourth ball of the over. Avinash Mohan denied the bowler the hat-trick but was clean bowled the very next ball. Bibek Chaudhary,Rajiv Shah and Sushan Bhari Shrestha polished of the tail to halt the Kuwaiti innings.

Nepal top Group B with maximum four points from two matches. Hong Kong and Bahrain are next with two points each.

Nepal coach Roy Luke Dias was happy to win two matches in a row but said they had a tough match ahead. "We need to play better against Bahrain," said Dias. Dias said they had a good start with the bat but was disappointed with the way his batsmen lost wicket in the middle stages. "Our medium pacers also need to improve their bowling as spinners could misfire someday," added Dias. Nischal, also the man-of-the-match against Hong Kong on Sunday, said he would like to continue with the performance. "I was looking to contribute with either the bat or the ball. I am happy to have contributed with the both," added the allrounder.

At the Birendra Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya grounds, Hong Kong eased to a 113-run win over Bahrain. Skipper Miten Rajesh Khatri struck a half century as Hong Kong made a massive 211-9 in 40 overs. In reply, Bahrain were all out for 98 runs in 27 overs. Man-of-the-match Miten struck seven fours in his run a ball 59.

In Group A match at the Pulchowk Engineering College grounds, Saudi Arabia defeated Thailand by 159 runs. Saudi Arabia were dismissed for 233 in 36.5 overs and restricted Thailand for 74 in 20.4 overs. Mohammad Abdullah scored 67-ball 70 and man-of-the-match Faheem Afrad took 6-10 for Saudi Arabia. Saudi and Singapore have two points each.