Singapore outplay Nepal, claim trophy

KATHMANDU: Singapore justified their dominant performance throughout the tournament to clinch the ACC U-16 Elite Cup with a comprehensive 68-run win over Nepal here at the TU Stadium today.

Nepali bowlers did reasonably well to restrict Singapore to a modest 146-6 in 40 overs but their batting failures meant the home team were dismissed for a meagre 78 runs in 22 overs. Vikas Rajgopal anchored the Singaporean innings with his fourth half century of the tournament.

Electing to bat first, Singapore had a disastrous start losing opener Keshav Seshadri (one) at 6-1 in the second over but Vikas led the fightback involving in four valuable partnerships. He shared 20 runs for the second wicket with Iishan Shekhar (21), 32 with Varun Sivaram (14), 21 with Mohit Kulkarni (nine) and another 43 for Sam Franks (26). Sam was run out in an attempt to plunder the second run in the last ball of their innings.

Vikas made the most of his two drop catches, hitting two boundaries in his patient 58 off 107 deliveries. Left-arm spinner Nischal Pandey had him caught at mid off by Hari Chaulagain in the 37th over. Vikas was dropped at short cover by skipper Switchan Shah off Rajeev Shah when the batsman was on 23. He got yet another reprieve when on 41 — Bibek Chaudhary dropped the batsman at long on region off Sushan Bhari Shrestha. Devendra Somare, Satish Bhagat, Nischal Pandey, Rajeev Shah and Sushan Bhari Shrestha claimed one wicket each for the hosts.

Nepali openers Sharad Khadka (eight) and Nischal (11) made a blistering start, making 29 runs in five overs before going for a lunch break. But Singapore bounced back after the break dismissing both the openers at 31-2 by the eighth over. While Sharad stepped out of the crease to be stumped by Sam Franks off Abhiraj Singh in the last ball of the seventh over, Nischal was caught behind off Navin Param three balls later with out adding a run.

Nepal were in a dire straits after Navin dismissed skipper Switchan Shah (two) and Dipendra Chand (nine) to make it 47-4 by the 12th over. Any hopes of making a comeback was evaporated in the next over when Sushan Bhari Shrestha (one) was run out in a terrible mix-up with Sanam Shrestha. Sanam (10) was next to be dismissed, bowled out by Navin. None of the other Nepali batsmen had answers to the disciplined Singapore bowling eventually being restricted for 78.

Nepal skipper Switchan said the openers had provided them a sound start but they lost the match due to the failures of the middle order batsmen. Man-of-the-match Navin was the pick of the Singapore bowlers with 4-28 while Saisrikar took 3-10.

“It’s great to have made it to the finals but all credits to Singapore,” said Nepal’s Sri Lankan coach Roy Luke Dias. “They (Singapore) had come to the final with big wins and they deserved the trophy,” added Dias. “Our bowlers did well to restrict them to the small total but it was a total failure on the part of our batsmen,” said Dias. This is the first time Nepal had lost the final match on the home ground.

Dias’ Singaporean counterpart Arjun Menon was happy that they finally tasted international success. “We have been underperforming for a long time and the victory is a remarkable achievement for us,” said Menon. Singapore skipper Varun Shivaram said his spinners brought the team back into the game. “Nepali openers batted well but we bounced back thanks to the spinners,” said Varun.

Nischal won the man-of-the-series and the best bowler’s awards while Vikas was adjudged the best batsman. Nischal — man-of-the-match in Nepal’s first three games — scored 161 runs hitting two half centuries and he also took 15 wickets including two five-wicket hauls. Vikas scored 251 runs that included four 50s. The only time he missed out on a big knock was against Saudi Arabia.