Nepal take on Hong Kong today

KATHMANDU: Nepal will take on defending champions Hong Kong in the opening day match of the ACC Trophy Elite Cup at the Unity grounds in Kuwait City on Wednesday.

Nepal can fancy their chances against Hong Kong considering their past records where they have beaten the side twice after losing in the first three editions of the tournament including the 2000 semi-finals in the United Arab Emirates.

Nepal last beat Hong Kong by 44 runs in 2008 in Malaysia. Before that, Nepal had also beaten the three-time finalists in the group stage in 2006 in Malaysia.

But Nepali team is sure to miss the services of their influential allrounder and vice-captain Gyanendra Malla in Wednesday’s match, if not for the entire tournament, after the cricketer was denied visa. After being denied twice, Malla has applied again for the visa but is yet to get confirmation.

If denied again, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) is all set to replace him with one of the three reserves — Subhash Khakurel, Pradeep Airee and Naresh Budhayer. Nepal have so far played two tournaments in Kuwait — first ACC Twenty20 in 2007 and ACC U-19 Elite Cup in 2009 — and Malla is the only player of the current team to have played in both the events.

Nepal are in Group A that also includes Singapore, Kuwait and Oman in the eighth edition of the tournament. Group B comprises of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Afghanistan, Malaysia, Bahrain and Bhutan. Nepal will play Oman on April 2 before taking on Singapore the next day. They will round up their league campaign with a match against the hosts Kuwait on April 6. The semi-finals are slated for April 7 with final to be played two days later at the Hubara grounds.

Nepal finished fourth in 2008 after losing against the eventual finalists the UAE in semi-finals. Their best showing in the tournament was in 2002 in Singapore when they reached the final but lost to the UAE.