Defending champ Nepal gains nothing from 2nd ACC Men’s Premier Cup


Kathmandu, Apr. 21: The Nepali cricket community was eager to see Nepal confront Asia's cricket powerhouses once again in the Asia Cup after winning the 2nd ACC Men’s Premier Cup. However, the dream of the defending champion, Nepal, was shattered by the UAE in the semi-final on Friday.

After the loss to the UAE, Nepal played Hong Kong for the 3rd place in the tournament in Muscat, Oman, on Saturday. As per the Asian Cricket Council’s (ACC) fixtures, the top three teams from the ACC Men’s Premier Cup qualify for the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup.

Meanwhile, after losing to Hong Kong on Saturday, Nepal, expected to be the best Associate team in Asia, could neither qualify back-to-back for the Asia Cup nor the Emerging Teams 

Asia Cup.

The final between host Oman and the UAE on Sunday will decide the team qualifying for the Asia Cup against India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. 

Nevertheless, Oman, the UAE and Hong Kong have qualified for the 6th Emerging Teams Asia Cup against the second-tier (A) teams of Asian Test-playing nations – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh 

and Afghanistan.

It is the second time that Nepal has failed to qualify for the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup. With the tournament’s first edition in 2013, the others have been organised in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2023. 

The UAE, Hong Kong and Oman were the three teams that qualified in 2018 disallowing Nepal a spot in the tournament for the first time. The same three teams restricted Nepal from participating in the sixth edition.

Finishing fourth, Nepal ended its campaign in Oman with only experience. 

Poor batting continues

Nepal won the toss and elected to bat first against Hong Kong, China, in the 3rd place play-off of the 2nd ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Oman Cricket Academy Ground on Saturday.

However, Nepal’s batsmen failed to capitalise on the decision to bat first. 

Nepal’s opening duo – Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh – gave Nepal a poor start with the bat for the third consecutive game in the tournament. Moreover, it was the third consecutive game where Bhurtel got out for a duck. On the other hand, Aasif got out for 2 off 3 against Saudi Arabia on April 17, 8 off 11 against the UAE on April 19 and 5 off 11 against Hong Kong on April 20.

With Bhurtel out for a duck, pacer Sompal Kami was sent at three. Kami added 12 off 7 before departing as the second wicket in 2.3 overs. Aasif was the third wicket of Nepal.

Skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel, Sundeep Jora and Kushal Malla tried building partnerships but they too departed for paltry of 21 off 19, 22 off 23 and 13 off 14 respectively.

Gulshan Jha fell as the seventh wicket in 13.4 overs leaving Nepal at 87 runs. When nothing was working for Nepal, Dipendra Singh Airee, the world’s 11th-ranked all-rounder in T20, came to the rescue.

Airee’s not-out inning of 44 off 29 helped Nepal post 139 runs on the board in the loss of eight wickets by the end of 20 overs. 

Ayush Shukla bagged three wickets for Hong Kong while Ateeq Iqbal, Yasim Murtaza and Ehsan Khan took one each. Sundeep and Gulshan got run out.

Anshy Rath’s wrath

Nepal was high on motivation as Airee helped the required run rate for Hong Kong reach at least 7 runs per over in the chase. It helped Nepal take the chase to the final over, but with Hong Kong’s opener Anshy Rath at the crease, Nepal could not win the match.

Rath played as the situation demanded. He tried building a partnership with every new batsman after his opening partner Yasim (9 off 7) departed in the 2nd over. 

Rath calmly registered a half-century and scored 65 off 50 as Hong Kong chased 140 in 19.3 overs in the loss of six wickets. Babar Hayat’s 26 off 25, Aizaz Khan’s 12 off 10 and Narsulla Rana’s 11 off 8* were extremely supportive for the team.

Sompal bagged three wickets for Nepal while Airee took two. Zeeshan Ali (0 off 1) was run out by Kami in his spell.

Nepal will now focus on the next major challenge before the T20 World Cup in June as the Himalayan country is hosting West Indies’ A team at the end of April.

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