NEPAL: TOP OF THE WORLD

In front of a roaring 10,000 strong crowd, Nepal won their third ACC U-19 Cup in a row. They beat Malaysia by seven wickets in a thoroughly deserved victory.

Asked to bat first, Malaysia only made 83. It wasn’t bad batting, just excellent bowling which allowed the batsmen no respite from seaming deliveries which probed and threatened from the first over. The bowlers only bowled one short ball throughout, which was hit for four. Their discipline was symptomatic of the mindset which carried them so far as a team.

Bantu Bataju and Amrit Bhattarai bowled unchanged for sixteen overs, taking seven wickets and effectively deciding the match between them. Throughout Bataju bowled at the stumps on a length, testing the batsmen’s defences. A Bataju inswinger accounted for Malaysia’s captain Suhan Kumar with the fifth ball of the innings.

For all of the bowlers’ initial threat, a mini-recovery was staged by the fifteen year-old Faris Rosmanizam along with Eszrafiq Azis and the partisan crowd were getting restless. A Bataju yorker accounted for Rosmanizam however, and just four balls later left-armer Bhattarai got one to move away to the in-form Ariffin Ramly and a thin edge was the result. If he hadn’t been in such good form this tournament, he wouldn’t have got anywhere near the ball or even been able to contemplate playing it but that’s the game of cricket.

Flashes and catches, thrust to thrust; if Bataju don’t get you, Bhattarai must. Later in the over Darwin Muralitharan was lbw to an in-swinger and the heart of Malaysia’s middle-order had been ripped out. A rally by Manrick Singh the youngsters Shafiq and Kasman was too little too late. Malaysia had been bundled out for just 83.

They have great spirit this Malaysian team and they set about defending 83 with some character and no little skill. Manrick Singh huffed and puffed but unfortunately couldn’t blow the Nepal openers away. Interestingly, the new ball was shared with Eszrafiq who immediately set into a groove with off-breaks that swung to leg and spun further.


Malaysia re-grouping during the innings break.

Looking back, he would wish to have pitched the ball a foot or so outside off-stump much more regularly because then he could have really put the batsmen under pressure and have a good chance of gaining leg-before decisions. As it was, the batsmen found him hard to get away. Frustration accounted for Yashwant Subedi who slashed a wide one straight to mid-off. Malaysia were pressing hard. The batsmen at the crease interspersed immaculate defence with judicious strokeplay, keeping the score ticking over.

It was something of a surprise to the crowd, let alone Kanishka Chaugai, to see his leg-stump clipped as he walked across a Eszrafiq delivery but at 52 for 3, Nepal had done enough to ensure that victory would be theirs.


Paras Khadka hitting the winning runs.

Roy Dias’s team returns the compliment

“I was proud of the boys”, said Malaysia’s coach John Bailey. “It was a good toss to win and being put in was always going to be hard. They showed a lot of character in defending 83. We can take a lot of positives from this match and the rest of the tournament.”

Roy Dias, Nepal’s coach, said: “There was quite a lot of pressure on Nepal but the team showed once again why they are the best in Asia at this level.”

Nepal move forward to the World Cup in Sri Lanka in February carrying the hopes of a nation with them. 15,000 were at the ground. Another 1.5 million were watching on television. This one team has made a country proud and are worthy winners of this year’s ACC U-19 Cup.

Filed November 21 2005