Nepal starts ACC Premier Cup defence with hard win

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By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, Apr. 13: Defending champion Nepal started the ACC Men’s Premier Cup 2024 with a win by defeating Malaysia in Muscat, Oman, on Friday. However, it was not an easy win. 

Nepal was able to restrict Malaysia to a paltry 143 runs in the first inning. Nevertheless, Nepal struggled to chase it with ease.

Malaysia won the toss and elected to bat first. The opening duo of Muhammad Amir and skipper Virandeep Singh was dangerous in the beginning  as they scored sufficiently against the two main Nepali bowlers, Karan KC 

and Sompal Kami. 

However, the partnership was broken as Amir was caught and bowled by Dipendra Singh Airee in the first ball of the 6th over. When Amir (16 off 18) departed, Malaysia was at 35/1.

The flow of boundaries decreased after the first wicket fell for Malaysia as the team prioritized preserving the wickets. Virandeep then partnered with Sharvin Muniandy. 

Sharvin was picking the bad deliveries and hitting them for boundaries and also taking the run rate up for the team. However, after hitting three fours and two sixes, Sharvin departed in the first ball of the 17th over as he was bowled out by Abinash Bohara. 

Malaysia was at 117/2 in 16.1 overs after Sharvin’s wicket. As the pacers went expensive, Nepali skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel used part-time spin bowlers. Rohit used eight bowlers in total against Malaysia.

However, only Dipendra and Abinash were able to take wickets. While Sharvin was the only wicket for Abinash in his four-over spell, Dipendra took one more after Amir’s. Syed Aziz (6 off 7) was Dipendra’s second victim in the 18th over.

Dipendra, in his four overs, gave only 14 runs and was hit for only one boundary, a four by Virandeep in the final ball of the inning. 

Malaysia only lost three wickets in the 20 overs but could post only 143 runs on the board. Virandeep was the team’s highest scorer as the skipper stayed not out at 72 off 57 with four fours and four sixes.

On the other hand, Nepal’s opening duo started the chase without hitting risky shots as the team was certain to chase the target if they did not lose wickets. 

However, the slow approach almost became disastrous for Nepal as the team faced 116 balls to chase the target. It was the lowest target of the day as Oman, Kuwait and Hong Kong had given a target of 178, 179 and 202 runs to Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar respectively. While Oman and Hong Kong defended their target, Nepal and Oman chased their respective ones.

When Kushal Bhurtel (24 off 24) departed in 7.5 overs, Nepal was at 49 runs. The wickets then kept falling, but the batsmen also continued earning runs by running rather than boundaries. 

Aasif Sheikh was dropped at 30 in 10.2 overs. However, he got stumped in the first ball of the next over after adding 32 off 35.

Meanwhile, when Rohit Kumar Paudel (28 off 24) and Dipendra Singh Airee (20 off 11) departed, Nepali fans were worried as there were not enough overs left. Rohit could not score satisfactorily, yet, he became the third Nepali batsman to score over 1,000 runs in T20I after Bhurtel and Airee.

When Airee departed as the fifth wicket in the final ball of the 17th over, Nepal was at 114 runs. Rohit was also caught in the first ball of the same over. Both were victims of Malaysian skipper Virandeep; he took three wickets in total. Pavandeep Singh and Muhammad Wafiq also bagged one each for Malaysia.

Gulshan Kumar Jha, who was awarded the Player of the Tournament in the SMS Friendship Cup against Gujarat and Baroda, was the rescuer for Nepal.

Jha, with a four and two sixes, scored 19 off 7 with Sundeep Jora (12 off 9) to take Nepal to 144 runs 

in 19.2 overs. 

Nepal faces Qatar, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia in the group-stage matches on April 13, 15 and 17 respectively. Ten Asian countries, divided into two groups of five each, are participating in the tournament.

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