UAE ends Nepal’s second Asia Cup hopes

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By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, Apr. 20: The UAE defeated defending champion Nepal in the semi-final of the 2nd ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Muscat, Oman, on Friday and ended Nepal’s hopes to the second Asia Cup. 

It was a comeback against Nepal for the UAE as Nepal won the first edition of the tournament defeating the UAE in the final in May 2023. Moreover, the UAE also took revenge for the loss against Nepal in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. 

While the first edition of the tournament was played in the 50-over format, the second is being played in the T20 format. It is because the Asia Cup 2024 was played in the ODI format while the one in 2025 is being played in the T20 format.

The UAE is facing Oman in the final scheduled on Sunday as latter defeated Hong Kong by 5 wickets in the second semi-final match on Friday. The winner of the tournament will participate in the 2025 Asia Cup while the top three will qualify for the 6th ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup being held in Sri Lanka at the end of 2024.

Thus, Nepal and Hong Kong will play for the 3rd place on Saturday. 

Nepal’s low total

A cricket match between Nepal and the UAE is deemed to be the most exhilarating rivalry among the Associate members. And the semi-final confrontation between the duo on Friday was breathtaking once again.

Winning the toss, UAE skipper Muhammad Waseem invited Nepali skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel to bat first. Waseem’s decision to bowl bore fruit as Nepal’s opener Kushal Bhurtel was caught out in the very first ball of the match by Junaid Siddique. 

“The way they bowled in the first powerplay with the new ball, the UAE bowlers utilised the conditions very well. We could not have a good partnership and counter the UAE bowlers. We have not been able to perform better outside our home and we are trying to solve the flaw,” said Paudel in the post-match conference.

After the early wicket, skipper Paudel entered the crease and tried to protect the wickets with the other opener Aasif Sheikh. However, Sheikh (8 off 11) and Paudel (5 off 18) departed in the 4th and 7th overs respectively after scoring in a single figure. 

While Nepal’s top-order failed consecutively, in-at-four Sundeep Jora came as a ray of hope. Jora faced 39 deliveries and registered a half-century but he got caught out in the 40th ball for 50 runs.

Jora partnered with Paudel, Kushal Malla (3 off 5) and Dipendra Singh Airee (5 off 8) before departing as the sixth wicket in 14.4 overs. After Jora departed, Nepal was at 80/6.

The wickets continued falling as the batsmen did not judge the balls properly while trying to hit them for maximums.

Nevertheless, in-at-seven Gulshan Jha and in-at-nine Karan KC helped Nepal cross the 100-run mark and make the chase a little competitive. Before departing, Jha added 20 off 16 and Karan added 17 off 12, the second and third-highest scores for Nepal respectively, to help take Nepal to 119/9 at the end of 20 overs. 

Junaid, Ali Naseer and Basil Hameed bagged two wickets each while Omid Shafi Rahman, Aayan Afzal Khan and Muhammad Farooq took one each. 

Alishan’s majestic inning

Nepal had only one way to win the match despite posting a low target: bundle out UAE. The initiation started positively as Sompal Kami bowled UAE skipper and opener Waseem (11 off 7) in the second over. Wassem opened the chase for the UAE with Alishan Sharafu facing the first ball.

With the start of the 15th over, the UAE lost four wickets with the score at 97 runs. However, the batsmen only departed after scoring in double figures that helped the team reach closer to the target.

Vishnu Sukumaran scored 28 off 28 while wicket-keeper-batsman Syed Haider scored 14 off 15. When Asif Khan departed as the third wicket in the 10th over, the Nepali team was overjoyed since Asif was the highest run-scorer in the tournament.

While the wickets were falling, one man was still standing tall, he was opener Alishan. Alishan partnered with every batsman for the UAE before chasing the target successfully in the 18th over with in-at-six Aayan Afzal Khan (3 off 7).

Alishan completed his 50 and stayed not out at 55 off 41 (4 fours, 2 sixes), and he was adjudged the player of the match for his match-winning inning.

Gulshan Jha bagged two wickets while Sompal Kami and Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi took one each.

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