Nepal seek fourth straight U-19 trophy

Kathmandu, August 28:

Nepal are a win away in their bid to claim the fourth consecutive U-19 championship.

The three-time defending champions will meet formidable Afghanistan for the first time in the U-19 ACC Elite Cup Cricket Tournament final at Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Both the teams have cent per cent record coming into the final with Afghanistan winning all four Group B matches before defeating the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the semi-finals.

Nepal, barring a match against Thailand which was washed out by rain, also won all the other three Group A matches against Singapore, Malaysia and Oman before ousting the hosts Malaysia in the semi-finals.

Afghanistan have proved their batting superiority while bowling and fielding have been the stronghold of the Nepali team so far.

The contrast between the two teams: Afghanistan looked comfortable setting up target while Nepal have preferred chasing it. Except for their opening match against Malaysia which they won by four wickets, Afghanistan have always batted first. Their batting has improved in every other game. The Afghanis won by 40 runs in the second league match against Qatar after setting a target of 162 before posting a 190-run target for Hong Kong which they won by 17 runs.

Against Kuwait, they managed 251 before scoring 255 in the semi-final against the UAE.

By contrast Nepal have batted second on all four occasions and have been successful in restricting the opponents to below 130, thanks to the disciplined bowling and fielding of the Nepali players. Except for the first two matches against Singapore (107) and the UAE (126), Nepal have dismissed Oman (90) and Malaysia (54) below the three figures — the indication that their bowling have improved in every other game.

The deciding factor between the two teams, however, is that Afghanistan have many proven match-winning batsmen while Nepal have so far relied on their allrounder captain Paras Khadka and batsman Gyanendra Malla.

Nepal would be wary of allrounder Sajeed Khan (82, 31, 34), and batsmen O Kunari (76, 66, 44) and Noor Ul Haq (64, 59, 34) who have contributed significantly with their bat. Izatulah Khan, who claimed four wickets twice and three wickets once, could be fatal for yet-to-be-tested Nepali batsmen. Sajeed is also capable to turn the tide for Afghanistan after his four and three wickets haul in the last two games.

The match is the first meeting between the two at the U-19 level but they share two wins each in other levels. Nepal defeated Afghanistan twice in the preliminary round and in the U-15 final in 2005. Afghanistan beat Nepal for the third-place decider at the senior ACC Trophy in Malaysia in 2006. The other win over Nepal came in the first round of the U-17 tournament in Malaysia in 2005.

UAE finish third

KATHMANDU: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) defeated Malaysia, the U-19 World Cup playing team, by four runs to finish third at the ACC U-19 Elite Cup Cricket Tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Singapore beat Qatar by three wickets for the fifth spot, while Oman outplayed Hong Kong by five wickets for the seventh place. — HNS