Nepal crashed out of the ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers after losing to Hong Kong by three wickets in a low-scoring encounter at the UKM Oval in Bangi, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
Already in danger elimination from the race to reach final which will send the winners into September 15-28 Asia Cup, Nepal’s need of a huge margin victory soon fizzled out after they were instead bundled out for a paltry 95 in 37.5 overs. Leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane almost handed Nepal a sensational win with a haul of five wickets but Hong Kong managed 96-7 in 32.3 overs.
Nepal, whose only victories came against tournament minnows Malaysia and Singapore, finished in fourth place with four points. Hong Kong, stunned by Malaysia in their first game, forged a solid comeback to reach the final on net run-rate after they were tied on seven points with Oman. Unbeaten prior to their game against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday, Oman also crashed after 13-run defeat.
The UAE and Hong Kong will now battle it out for a place in the Asia Cup when they meet in Thursday’s title clash. The champions will join India and Pakistan in Group ‘A’ of the Asia Cup. Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are in another pool.
Nepal’s innings was dealt a huge blow after seamer Tanwir Afzal bowled Subash Khakurel for a first ball duck. In a spin friendly pitch, Ehsan Nawaz had Nepali skipper Paras Khadka (14) stumped by Scott McKechnie. Anil Sah (15), Gyanendra Malla (12), Dipendra Singh Airee (two), Sagar Pun (seven) and Sompal Kami (naught) all fell cheaply as Nepal were in deep trouble at 58-7 in 23.5 overs.
Aarif Sheikh and Basanta Regmi (15 not out) tried to resurrect Nepal with a 34-run stand before Ehsan polished off the tail with three quick wickets. Sheikh top scored for Nepal with 18. Ehsan took 4-15 from 7.5 overs. Aizaz Khan and Afzal claimed two wickets apiece for Hong Kong.
Lamichhane led Nepal’s reply picking up wickets regularly but opener Anshuman Rath remain firm at the one to ensure Hong Kong eke out a crucial victory. Rath shared 31 runs for the fourth wicket with Kinchit Shah (11) in a partnership that lasted 73 deliveries. Lamichhane broke the stand, getting rid of both the batsmen but by then Hong Kong were just 13 runs shy of victory target.
Lamichhane returned with figures of 5-27. Sagar Pun and Basanta Regmi also had one scalp apiece for Nepal. Lamichhane is so far the second leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 15 wickets. Ahmed Raza of the UAE has 15 wickets to his name.
Hong Kong 96-7 in 32.3 overs (A Rath 52, K Shah 11; S Lamichhane 5-27, S Pun 1-20) beat Nepal 95 all out in 37.5 overs (A Sheikh 18, A Sah 15, B Regmi 15 not out; E Khan 4-15, A Khan 2-16) by three wickets
Man-of-the-match: A Rath (HK)
Source: KAthmandu Post.com