Dominant Nepal claim title, qualify for U-19 Asia CupLeft-arm spinner Sagar Dhakal demolishes Hong Kong in the final with a five-wicket haul. Earns player-of-the-series award for his consistent performance.
Nepal qualified for the ACC U-19 Asia Cup after claiming the ACC U-19 Eastern Region cricket tournament title in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
In the final match at the Kinrara Oval, Nepal eased to a six-wicket victory over Hong Kong with left-arm spinner Sagar Dhakal once again spinning the web over the opponent batsmen. The player of the tournament took 5-18 as Hong Kong were skittled out for just 95 runs in 43.1 overs.
Opener Pawan Sarraf led the chase with a half century stand with Rit Gautam as Nepal reached 96-4 in 16.1 overs. Only the winners of the tournament were guaranteed a spot in the U-19 Asia Cup scheduled for August 28 to September 8 in Sri Lanka. Nepal will now join Test teams Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan along with fellow Associates the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Dhakal opened the bowling for Nepal and the spinner struck in the first two overs as Hong Kong failed to open their account in three overs. Kalhan Marc Challu and Adit Gorawara offered a brief resistance adding 29 runs — the highest partnership in Hong Kong innings — for the third wicket before Dhakal struck again.
He trapped Challu leg before wicket as Nepal continued to choke Hong Kong with a disciplined bowling attack. Skipper Gorawara top scored with a testing 71-ball 24 before falling to spinner Tilak Raj Bhandari. Gorawara hit four boundaries. Challu was their next best scorer with a 38-ball 19 that included two fours and a six.
Ranaq Kapur (12) and Mohammad Hassan (nine) tried to push Hong Kong close to triple figures adding 25 runs for the ninth wicket. Man-of-the-final Dhakal’s miserly 10-over spell included five maidens. Seamer Kamal Singh Airee also had the figures of 3-23 from eight overs. Another left-arm spinner Kushal Malla bowled extraordinarily giving away just four runs in 8.1 overs and picking up a wicket.
Dhakal, who gave three man-of-the-match performances out of four matches that Nepal played in the tournament, ended up as the player-of-the-series with 16 wickets to his name. Gorawara and Kapur of Hong Kong were named the best batsman and bowler respectively. Nepal captain Rohit Kumar Paudel was all praise of Dhakal.
“We had planned to begin with Sagar because the Hong Kong openers were playing the medium pacers well,” Dhakal told the cricketingnepal.com. “That plan worked for us because he destroyed the top and middle order of Hong Kong. He was exceptional throughout the tournament and we are hopeful that he carries this momentum in the Asia Cup as well,” Rohit said.
Sarraf gave a quickfire start to Nepal’s chase after he and Rit Gautam (13) added 52 runs for the first wicket inside six overs. When Nepal lost Sarraf in the 12th over, they were just 20 runs sigh of victory. Sarraf made 39 off 36 with three fours and a six. Kapur took two wickets for Hong Kong.
Paudel was happy to get a desired result in the tournament. “The tournament went as expected for us. The boys played like champions. We wanted to make sure that none of the teams come closer to us and that is what exactly happened. Getting into Asia Cup is a good opportunity for us to get a fair exposure of playing against tougher teams,” added Paudel.
Nepal were dominant throughout the tournament as only Singapore managed to cross 100 runs against them. But in that match, Nepal had smashed 326 runs after batting first. While tournament minnows China were bundled out for just 53 runs, hosts Malaysia could only manage 87 runs in the semi-final on Monday.
Paudel now wants to put all his focus on next month’s Asia Cup. “We are planning some preparation tours before the U-19 Asia Cup. If we prepare well, then we can have a good outing in Sri Lanka. We have such a balanced side that none of the Test teams in the Asia Cup can take us lightly. This triumph will boost our confidence heading into the Asia Cup,” the captain said.
Nepal’s biggest showing in the Asia Cup was in the 2017 edition when they reached the semi-finals for the first time in their cricket history. It was also a tournament where Nepal stunned giants India in the group stage, the first victory against their neighbours in any form of cricket in their history.