Jha, Sharki lead Nepal to historic winHosts Rhinos thump the UAE by seven wickets at the TU Cricket Ground to clinch the ACC Men’s Premier Cup trophy and progress to the 2023 Asia Cup, maintaining their unbeaten streak throughout the tournament.
Nepal qualified for the Asia Cup following a resounding seven-wicket victory over the United Arab Emirates in the final to clinch the ACC Premier Cup at the TU ground in Kirtipur on Tuesday. The final game was played over two days due to unseasonal rains.
Nepal bowled out the visitors, sent into bat first, for 117 runs in 33.3 overs as Lalit Rajbanshi dismissed Junaid Siddique for 10 runs after the UAE resumed their innings on Tuesday at 106-9. Chasing the target, Nepal made 118-3 in 30.3 overs on the back of an unbeaten half century by Gulsan Jha. The home team wrapped up the tournament in style, maintaining their unbeaten run throughout the tournament.
They won three among the four games at the group stage, their fixture against Saudi Arabia being washed out. The semi-final against Kuwait also fetched no results and Nepal progressed into the final on the basis of a better record at the group stage.
The rain had stopped the final for a second time on Monday at around 11:50 NST before the match referee decided to give continuity to the game on the reserve day (Tuesday).
Backed by jam packed home supporters, Nepali bowlers kept the UAE under pressure from the beginning on Monday, taking wickets at regular intervals. Slow left arm orthodox Lalit Rajbanshi grabbed four wickets, adding to his overnight tally of three. Leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and medium pacer Karan KC took two wickets each.
UAE’s middle order batter Asif Khan was the highest scorer of the team, contributing 46 runs off 54 balls. He hit seven boundaries and a six before Rajbanshi had him caught by Gulshan Jha on the second delivery of the 28th over. He then dismissed Zahoor Khan, caught by Arif Sheikh, for a golden duck off the following delivery.
Rajbanshi opened the day with a hat-trick in sight, but failed. He however, had Junaid Siddique, the last man in, caught by Kushal Bhurtel to bowl the UAE out.
Opener-cum-captain Muhammad Waseem (11 runs), Aryan Lakra (13 runs) and Basil Hameed (10 runs) were the only other UAE batters to reach double-digit scores.
Rajbanshi gave away 14 runs in his 7.1-over spell that included two maiden overs. KC gave away 26 runs in his seven overs, bowling a maiden, Lamichhane conceded 32 runs in his seven overs while also bowling a maiden over. Sompal Kami and Gulsan Jha also picked up a wicket each.
Chasing the target, Nepal got an early scare after they lost openers Kushal Bhurtel (1 run), Aasif Sheikh (8 runs) and captain Rohit Paudel (1 run) with the scorecard reading 22-3 at the completion of the eighth over.
But Jha, who came in place of Dipendra Singh Airee, and Bhim Sharki shared an unconquered partnership of 96 runs for the fourth wicket. The player-of-the-match Jha slammed an unbeaten 67 off 84 balls that included three hits to the boundary and six sixes. Sharki played a patient knock of 36 off 72 balls studded with four hits to the fence.
Coach Monty Desai was full of praise for Jha, benched in the semi-final against Kuwait and elevated to the top order from his usual place in the lower middle order. “Gulsan is a good cricketer and is growing,” Desai said. “He works in the areas he needs to, and gets better. It was a tremendous effort on his part to handle that pressure. He is showing very good character.”
UAE bowler Rohan Mustafa claimed two wickets and conceded 13 runs in his 10-over spell that included three maiden overs. He dismissed opener Bhurtel and captain Paudel. Aayan Afzal Khan picked up the other Nepal wicket.
Leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane of Nepal was declared the player of the series. He claimed 13 wickets and scored 55 runs in the tournament.