NEPAL PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS

A terrific performance by defending champions Nepal took them to a thumping six-wicket victory over UAE in the top of the table Group B clash at the Kinrara Academy on Day 3 of the ACC U-19 Elite Cup.

"We actually were disappointed we didn't win by more wickets," said their captain Paras Khadka afterwards.

Paras was indebted to his namesake Sagar Khadka (no relation), "We're from two different parts of the country!" says Paras. Sagar, a stocky off-spinner, who gives the ball plenty of air, turned the game in Nepal's favour first ball after the drinks interval when he bowled left-hander Shihan Dharmasena and from 69 for 1, UAE lost their last nine wickets for just 54 more runs.

Sagar bowled beautifully in tandem with slow left-armer Raj Shrestha, between them bowling 19 overs for just 46 runs, taking four wickets. They bowled to a field, the fielders backed them up and four run-outs in the UAE innings showed how much pressure Nepal were exerting in the field.

The opener Arjun Lamba visibly tiring after a 70-ball 46, having played some spanking shots through the off-side at the start of the innings ran himself out in a mix-up with Mustafa and it was downhill all the way after that for UAE.

Only Rohan Mustafa was able to hit Sagar over the top but that one soaring six over mid-on was a shot of desperation from a man frustrated at his inability to get Sagar Khadka away along the ground. Sagar's loop, flight and dip accounted for three victims but it was the UAE's running between the wickets that would have most disappointed their coach Abey Kuruvilla. Ironic really, considering how many of their batsmen didn’t use their feet to the spinners.

Sagar Khadka

All out in the 44th over, 123 never looked like it was going to be enough but UAE's new-ball bowlers did their best to try to try and make it so. Sagar Khadka, pushed up the order by Nepal's coach Roy Dias as the force was so palbably with him couldn't lay bat on ball as left-arm seamer Aman Ali kept beating him outside off-stump. Irfan Ahmed too, from the Kinrara Road made things extremely difficult for Nepal's top-order either side of lunch.

The duel between Ali and Ahmed and Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka as the batsman sought to rebuild after Nepal were 11 for 2 was compelling, top-class cricket. Neither side gave an inch.

Ali and Ahmed, the fastest bowlers in the competition were up against two batsmen who have been part of teams that have beaten Test-playing nations at this level. It was only when Paras Khadka rifled an off-drive past Ali in the second over after lunch that the bowlers' dominance was broken. If the ball reached Khadka at 80mph, it left the bat at 90mph. Top shot from a top player.

The UAE's spinners though competent, weren't in the class of Sagar and Shrestha and Nepal were able to accumulate and then accelerate towards their target. Paras fell to a smart catch at gully by Dharmasena for 33, and then Aakash Gupta having hit hit his first two balls high over mid-off for four holed out soon after for 13. But then, with just 20 runs needed, Malla and Thapa saw Nepal home.

"It was a good win for us. UAE are a strong side. We're glad we're looking good for the semi-finals but we're just taking one game at a time", said Nepal's captain afterwards. Nepal next play Thailand, with UAE taking on Oman.

Group B
Nepal v UAE at Kinrara Oval
NEPAL WON BY SIX WICKETS
Nepal won the toss and elected to field
UAE: 123 off 43.2 overs (A. Lamba 46; S. Khadka 3-26)
Nepal: 126 for 4 after 32.5 overs (G. Malla 47*, P. Khadka 33)
Man of the Match: Sagar Khadka (Nepal)

Scorecard

Filed August 22 2007