Nepal off to flying start in the Tri-Nation SeriesDebutant openers Kushal Bhurtal and Aasif Sheikh complete half centuries each and share highest 116-run opening partnership in T20I for Nepal as they beat the Netherlands by nine wickets.
Debutant openers Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh shared a record partnership as hosts Nepal made a flying start to their Tri-Nations Twenty20 International Series, defeating the Netherlands by nine wickets in the curtain raiser at the TU cricket grounds in Kirtipur on Saturday.
The duo shared a 116-run partnership for the first wicket and both completed half centuries in their first ever T20 International match as Nepal chased a 137-run target with five overs to spare losing just one wicket. The duo also surpassed the previous best first wicket T20I partnership of 108 runs set by skipper Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka against Bhutan in the 2019 South Asian Games.
Bhurtel scored 62 runs off 46 deliveries and Sheikh remained unbeaten for 54 runs facing 38 balls for the experimental Nepali side that invited the Netherlands to bat first after winning the toss. Bowler Shahab Alam also earned his first T20I cap while it was also the first official match for Nepal's World Cup winning Australian coach Dav Whatmore who was appointed for the post in December last year.
"I am glad with the performance of our debutants. I would congratulate and wish them all the best as the captain," said Malla. "It is one of the best matches that we have ever played. Though there were some flaws in the fielding, we were able to restrict the opponents below 140 runs total due to good bowling and the wicket condition was also perfect. Coming up with such performance in the debut match is really outstanding."
The man-of-the-match Bhurtel got a lifeline in the third ball of the innings despite being caught in Vivian Kingma delivery as the bowler had overstepped to hurl a no ball. The 25-year-old cracked five boundaries and as many sixes before being caught by captain Pieter Seelaar off Julian De Mey in the 13th over. He reached his half century facing 30 deliveries.
"Bhurtel played a great innings and the no ball was the turning point of the match," Netherlands captain Seelaar said. "Nepal were better than us but we will work out for cent percent results in upcoming matches."
Bhurtel’s opening partner Sheikh hit four boundaries and as many sixes. The 21-year-old reached 50 runs off 36 deliveries. Captain Gyanednra Malla, who came to bat at number three, was not out for 13 runs from seven deliveries. He hit a big six in the last delivery of the 15th over as Nepal made 141 runs in their chase.
Earlier, put into bat first, the Netherlands lost two wickets for 12 runs before posting 136-4. Wicketkeeper batsman cum opener Scott Edwards scored 30 runs off 32 deliveries and Bas de Leede contributed the highest 41 runs off 46 balls. Captain Seelaar and Antonius Staal were unbeaten on 23 runs and 20 runs. Seelar faced 17 deliveries and Staal nine balls.
Max O'Dowd, who contributed 10 runs, was the first wicket to fall after he was trapped leg before by spinner Sandeep Lamichhane in the last ball of the second over. Ben Cooper was the next batsman to depart as he was also trapped leg before by medium pacer Sompal Kami in the fourth ball of the third over.
Opener Edwards and De Leede gave some stability to the Dutch innings sharing a 61-run stand for the third wicket. Edwards hit two fours and a six before he was caught by Bhurtel off Shahab Alam in the 14th over.
Middle order batsman De Leede hit three fours and two sixes before he was caught by Bhurtel off Lamichhane in the 17th over. Lamichhane, who also played his first T20I in the country, gave away 22 runs in his four-over spell claiming two wickets. Kami and Alam grabbed one wicket each. Kami, who made a comeback to the national fold after 17 months due to injury, conceded 13 runs in his four-over bowling. Alam gave away 45 runs in his four-over spell.
The Netherlands will vie against Malaysia on Monday.