Rhinos make it four in a row, Blasters through

Pokhara, December 22

Chitwan Rhinos registered their fourth consecutive victory, while Butwal Blasters earned playoffs berth after their third win in the Namaste Pokhara Premier League at the Pokhara Stadium today.

The Paras Khadka-led Rhinos defeated Biratnagar Titans by 18 runs to make it four wins in a row.

Batting first, Rhinos posted 146-6 in 20 overs and packed the Titans for 128 runs with six balls to spare.

The Rhinos accumulated eight points and are in a strong position to advance to the final as the table toppers.

After losing opener Rohan Mustafa with just 13 runs on the board, skipper Khadka and Babar Hayat added 47 runs for the second wicket before Aarif Sheikh and Sunny Patel shared a 54-run partnership for the unbroken fifth wicket to post the fighting total.

Sheikh top scored with an unbeaten 39 off just 22 balls hitting three each fours and sixes, while skipper Khadka struck five boundaries in his 38-ball 35. Patel played eight-ball cameo scoring 27 not out with the help of a boundary and three sixes, while Hayat scored 31-ball 21 hitting two fours.

Jitendra Mukhiya, Kishore Mahato, Puneet Mehra and Muhammad Zaid Alam took one wicket each for Titans.

In reply, the Titans were reduced to 37-6 in 8.2 overs before Lokesh Bam fought the lonely battle with a quick fire half century.

Bam struck five each fours and sixes in his 36-ball 62 and his dismissal in the third ball of the 19th over effectively ended their hopes. Puneet Mehra and Bam had brought the Titans into the match with a 77-run partnership for the seventh wicket but they lost the last four wickets for 14 runs. Mehra scored 24 off 26 balls, while Noman Khan (18) was the only other batsman to contribute in double figures.

Bhuvan Karki was the pick of the Rhinos bowlers taking 3-14 and that also earned him the man-of-the-match award along with Rs 10,000, while Karan KC returned with 3-33. Rohan Mustafa grabbed two and Sunny Patel pocketed one wicket.

In another match, Blasters defeated Expert Dhangadhi Blues by seven wickets. Batting first, the Blues were bowled out for 140 runs in 19.5 overs before the Blasters raced to 141-3 with 20 balls to spare.

Chasing a modest target, openers Aftabuddin Ahmed and Shankar Rana made a flying start putting in 53 runs in 4.4 overs before the latter was dismissed for 31-ball 21 that included three fours. Ahmed and Harsh Tonk hit a total of 11 sixes as they added 52 runs for the second wicket to take the Blasters to three figures in less than 10 overs.

Ahmed struck a four and seven sixes in his whirlwind knock of 23-ball 52, while Tonk scored 21- ball 40 with the help of three boundaries and four sixes. Shivam Singh (15) and Bhim Sharki (seven) completed the formality adding 18 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket. Anil Kharel took two wickets and Deepal Punia grabbed one for the Blues.

Earlier, Blues skipper Dipendra Singh Airee top scored with 61 off just 45 balls hitting six fours and two sixes, while Sundeep Jora struck four boundaries and a six in his 32-ball 39. Saurav Khanal (10) was the only third Blues batsman to score in double figures.

Man-of-the-match Abinash Bohara was the pick of the Blasters bowlers taking 4-26 and he was ably supported by Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi (3-19) and Sompal Kami grabbed one wicket.

With their third win in four matches, the Blasters are second with six points, while Kathmandu Golden Warriors have four. With one match to play, the Titans, defending champions Pokhara Paltan and Blues have two points each. Top three sides will enter the playoffs with the leaders moving to final directly, while the next two will play the eliminator.