Malla relieves himself of pressure with record half century against MalaysiaIn absence of regular skipper Paras Khadka, the opener scores 51 off 20 balls to bring Nepal back into contention.
Gyanendra Malla relieved himself of the pressure smashing country's fastest Twenty20 International half century as Nepal bounced back from Tuesday's stunning four-wicket defeat to Qatar in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Qualifier on Wednesday.
In a must-win game where Nepal lost regular skipper and batting mainstay Paras Khadka to back spasm, Malla led the team and struck a 21-ball 51 to hand Nepal a crucial seven-wicket victory over Malaysia at the Singapore Indian Association ground. Reduced to nine-over-a-side following a delayed start due to rain, Malaysia reached 83-7 before Nepal replied with 86-3 with six balls to spare.
The victory lifts Nepal to third in the standings and keeps them in contention for the top spot that guarantees a place in the Global Qualifiers for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Australia next year. The Global Qualifiers will be held in October and November in the United Arab Emirates.
The day was all about Malla who not only handed his side a much-needed victory but also eased the pressure he had been in for a long time following a string of low totals in the shortest version of the game. Having scored just 62 runs in the last six Twenty20 Internationals with the best score of 23 against Qatar on Tuesday, Malla's batting was under heavy scrutiny in the format.
But under crunch situation, Malla ran riot over Malaysian bowlers right from the word go to lay the foundation for an easy victory. On his way to scoring Nepal's fastest Twenty20 International half century in just 20 balls, Malla also notched up Nepal's highest opening wicket partnership in the shortest version of the game. He shared 66 runs for the first wicket with Pradeep Airee, who just played role of an anchor.
Binod Bhandari previously held the record for the fastest Twenty20 international half century which he made in 25 balls against Malaysia in a recent two-match bilateral series on July 14. Malla and Khadka also held the highest opening wicket partnership of 49 runs against Qatar on Tuesday. Despite breaking a long drought, Malla said he was not playing to prove his critics wrong.
"I am not playing cricket to answer others. I am playing for Nepal, team and myself and it doesn't matter what others say because there will be people responding to our ups and downs. The only positive I can take from this is I am happy that people are noticing every bit of Nepali cricket, both our success and failures," Malla told media after the game.
Nepal coach Umesh Patwal gave the reasons why he has put faith on Malla despite a lean patch. " I never doubted his skills but it’s this kind of big performance that people want to see from him. I was not worried whether he scores runs or not because he is a big match player and steps up whenever the team requires him to," Patwal added.
Malla was at his brutal best smashing five fours and three sixes—one of them coming against Muhammad Syahadat to bring up his half century. His innings finally came to an end after he attempted another six off Syahadat only to hole out a catch at long on to Aminuddin Ramly. Nepal went through a nervous period when Syahadat removed Malla, Airee and Dipendra Singh Airee (two) in a space of 11 runs but Bhandari sealed the victory with a six off the same bowler.
Earlier, fast bowling spearhead Sompal Kami picked up two wickets in his first over to put Malaysia on the back foot. Syed Aziz played freely smashing a 15-ball 30 with five fours and a six before falling prey to leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane. Aziz's dismissal stemmed the run flow before 17-ball 21 from Virandeep Singh pushed Malaysia towards a challenging total.Basanta Regmi, who reached 50 Twenty20 wickets in the match, took 2-9from the only over he got. Nepal will now take on Kuwait on Saturday andSingapore in their final league game on Sunday and they can make it through ifthey score handsome victories over both the opponents. Singapore, who beatQatar by 33 runs on Tuesday, currently lead the points table with three pointsfrom two games.
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