UAE and Nepal tied a pulsating ACC Trophy Elite Final. It was the second tied ACC Final in a row, coming after the U-19 Asia Cup in July. On home soil, in front of 1500 ‘away’ fans, UAE fought back to reclaim a share of the premier ACC 50-over tournament for the first time since 2006. It was Nepal’s first ACC Elite triumph, though maybe overall, they will feel they should have won it outright by some margin, having been in a strong position to win coming into the final overs.

With both sides trading body blows to the end the result was in the balance until the very last ball. Nepal won the toss, they have the edge in the field, bat a little deeper than UAE. There wasn’t much turn on offer today, barely any swing, but chasing was going to be easier in the afternoon as the 35 degree heat baked the flat Sharjah wicket. Nepal opened with Paras and Shakti and Paras, after unleashing one bouncer, started bowling off-spin in his fifth over. Arshad Ali, who had the anchorman role to play, was run out after just one ball, great work by Prithu Baskota close in. UAE’s game-plan already awry was further disrupted by the loss of two quick wickets, Shakoor Rana and Shaiman Anwar both dynamic hitters falling by the seventh over UAE 24 for 3.

UAE were committed in the field, the infield policed, the boundaries patrolled. The smother was on. UAE’s captain Khurram Khan imposed himself. He normally scores the majority of his runs behind square, today, on this slowish track he punched and drove, aiming to hit the UAE spinners off their line and length. In partnership with Haroon Iftikhar, Khurram rebuilt the innings and then with Saqib Ali, set about putting on an imposing score.

The Nepali fans poured in throughout the morning, their noise increasing with their numbers until two then three stands, eventually four, were occupied. Khurram made a fine 61, the left-armer’s duel with left-arm spinner Shakti Gauchan always one worth watching. He fell to Shakti, when it looked like the hard work had been done, 157 for 5 in the 39th over. They’d have to go some if they were to get to 250. They didn’t but go they did, or rather Saqib Ali did, after playing the lesser hand with Khurram and then just in accumulation mode he accelerated towards the end, striking 10 off the last two balls of the UAE innings to take him past 100 and UAE to 242.

Gettable, but it’d take some getting.

This Nepal side aren’t overawed by steep run-chases. And every run was cheered to the rafters by their fans, a wall of sound reverberating around the ground. After a relatively quiet tournament, opener Subash Khakurel took the opportunity to come good and made a fine 50, Anil Mandal was ebullient after a quietish start and the target was always in hand after an opening stand of 94. Both openers were out soon after though in the 25th over and and when Paras presented a chance to Khurram, the first ball of Arshad Ali’s second spell just a few balls later, it looked like a big chance missed by UAE. A big chance.

The momentum was kept going by Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka. They were making it look so easy, the UAE seemed bereft of ideas. But both Malla and Khadka fell in the space of three balls with the score on 165 in the 37th over and UAE were right back in it. 77 wanted, 75 balls remaining. The ‘Moose’ Pradeep Airee had other ideas though, and he biffed a quick 16. When he was out 45 were wanted off 41 balls.

Sharad Vesawkar had been in with him. Prithu Baskota fell for 2, Nepal’s perennial man for a crisis fell Basant Regmi fell for 2, stumped, and was distinctly distraught on his way back to the pavilion. UAE were suddenly finding things going right for them. Sharad responded with a four and two soaring sixes, class strokes.

12 were wanted off the last over to be bowled by Shadeep Silva. Shakti Gauchan was dropped first ball, the ball going straight into and out of Khurram Khan’s hands at short midwicket, his second drop of the day. The batsmen exchange singles, Shakti Gauchan then hits Shadeep for a monster over the long-on boundary , and just four are then needed. A mis-field off the fifth ball by the bowler meant that two were needed off the last ball…Shakti heaved to long-off, Ahmed Raza raced in, fielded and threw and Shakti was out by two yards going for the second, the match tied.

Paras Khadka, Player of the Tournament said, “it was nice to contribute to the team’s performance, I wish we had won it outright but at least we didn’t lose” Khurram Khan looked like a man who suddenly found that the Ming Vase he’d dropped had bounced back into his hands undamaged, “It was a great final and no team deserved to lose, full credit to both teams.”

Sharjah’s track record of close matches continues, as does the ACC’s. Nepal are starting to win away from home, and with UAE having the measure of Afghanistan, and Hong Kong and Malaysia improving rapidly with young sides, one expects the next ACC Trophy to be even more competitive.

ACC Trophy Elite 2012
Final: UAE v Nepal at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Nepal won the toss and elected to field
UAE: 241 for 6 off 50 overs (S.Ali 101*; S.Gauchan 3-36)
Nepal: 241 for 9 off 50 overs (S.Khakurel 55, A.Mandal 44, G.Malla 32, P.Khadka 31, S.Vesawkar 38*)
Man of the Match: Saqib Ali (UAE)

Tournament page

Filed October 13th, 2012