Nepal’s hope of making it to the semi-finals of the ACC U-19 Asia Cup for the second successive time ended with a three-wicket defeat to Afghanistan at the Krira Shikkha Protisthan in Savar, Bangladesh, on Monday.
The second defeat in Group ‘A’ leaves Nepal pointless with just one game left. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are also pointless after two matches, joined Nepal at the sidelines ahead of their inconsequential last match on Tuesday. India and Afghanistan both qualify for semi-final and the two face off on Tuesday that will decide the pool winners.
Nepal had started their campaign with a 171-run defeat against tournament favourites India on Saturday and Monday’s result sealed their fate for good. In the last edition in Malaysia, the current Nepal coach Binod Das pulled off a stunning upset over the Rahul Dravid-mentored Indian team to enter the semi-finals for the first time in their history. Nepal were harbouring high hopes ahead of Monday’s clash having defeated the same Afghanistan team in the recently held Quadrangular U-19 One Day Series in India. It was the 13th meeting between the teams at the U-19 level with Nepal winning only on four occasions.
Electing to bat first, Nepal posted a below par 131 in 38.3 overs but Afghanistan were themselves made to struggle to chase down what appeared to be an easy total, losing seven wickets before finally achieving the target in 38th over. Nepal skipper Aasif Sheikh’s decision to bat first backfired after his side lost four wickets for 21 runs. Nepal appeared to be heading for a embarrassingly low total before middle order batsman Rohit Kumar Paudel and tailender Rashid Khan helped them put on a respectable total on the board.
Paudel played a dogged inning having seen wickets tumble at the other end regularly. Paudel fell four runs short of his half century as his team failed to add a single run after his dismissal at 131-9 in the 39th over. He struck seven boundaries in his 88-ball innings. Khan meanwhile played an aggressive knock scoring 25-ball 30 with five fours and a six. Skipper Sheikh was the next best scorer with a painstaking 20 off 46 balls. Azmatullah Omarzai was pick of the Afghanistan bowlers with figures of 4-14 while Abdul Rahman and Qais Ahmad took two wickets each.
Afghanistan lost opener Riaz Hussian (11) to be 15-1 in the fourth over but a 45-run second wicket stand between skipper Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ijaz resurrected their innings. Like Nepal, Afghanistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals but with a very low total to chase small contribution from number of batsmen proved enough for them to secure a berth in the semi-finals.
Gurbaz top scored for Afghanistan with 26 while man-of-the-match Omarzai and Arif Khan chipped in 23 runs each. Surya Tamang took 4-36 while Khan, Pawan Sarraf and Sagar Dhakal took one wicket each for Nepal.
Summary: Afghanista U-19 136-7 in 37.3 overs (R Gurbaz 26, A Khan 23*; S Tamang 4-36, R Khan 1-16) beat Nepal 131-10 in 38.3 overs (R Paudel 46, R Khan 30; A Omarzai 4-14, A Rahman 2-21) by three wickets