Nepal fall agonisingly short of pulling a shock Bangladesh victoryTigers' skipper Ali slams an unbeaten 98 runs to overshadow brilliant knocks from Sarraf and Jhora to steer his team to a thrilling victory.
Nepal fell agonisingly short of pulling a shock win over Bangladesh in the ACC U-19 Asia Cup match at the P Sara Oval grounds in Colombo on Sunday.
Put in to bat first after Bangladesh won the toss, Nepal posted a commendable 261-8 in 50 overs thanks to half-centuries from Pawan Sarraf and Sandeep Jhora. Having left out for the ACC Eastern Region Qualifiers, Jhora had a point to prove and the batsman came up with a brilliant knock to help his side post a decent score on the board. Openers Rit Gautam and Sarraf made a cautious start to their innings putting on a 45-run stand for the first wicket. Gautam scored 32 of them before losing his wicket to Rakibul Hasan in the 14th over, his 53-ball knock included three fours and a six.
Asif Sheikh joined Sarraf in the middle but was out for just three runs. Sarraf and Kushal Malla then added 39 runs for the third wicket to consolidate the Nepali innings. Malla made 28 off 33 balls with three sixes and a four. While skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel (14) and Bhim Sharki (21) chipped in runs in between, it was Jhora whose fiery knock propelled Nepal's total. Jhora slammed three sixes and as many four in his blistering 37-ball 56. Tanzim Hasan Sakib and Shanin Alam took two wickets each, while Mrittunjoy Chowdhury, Rakibul Hasan, Minhazur Rahman and Towhid Hridoy claimed one wicket each for the Tigers.
"We did compete well today but the 37th over of the second innings was where we let them off," said Nepal coach Binod Das. "An easy run-out opportunity and a dropped catch in that particular over cost us the game. We are playing against teams that have plenty of match exposure and if we allow them chances, they will make us pay. Lots of positives to look forward to. Good to have Jora fit in time to play this game, Pawan’s knock and Sagar’s spell with the ball were top class."
Nepal appeared to be coasting towards victory after Rashid Khan and Kamal Singh Airee took a wicket each to reduce Bangladesh to 19-2 by the fifth over. But Bangladesh lived up to the billing as a Test-playing nation forcing their way back into the game thanks to their next four batsmen, especially the skipper Akbar Ali. Mahmudel Hasan Joy and Hridoy led the fightback by putting on a 79-run partnership for the third wicket. Hari Bahadur Chauhan broke the stand having Joy caught and bowled in the 24th over. Joy scored 40 off 56 balls. Bangladesh skipper Ali joined Hridoy and the two batsmen added another 34 runs for the fourth wicket before Airee dismissed the latter for 60 runs. Hridoy scored 60 off 88 deliveries with just three hits to the fence.
Ali and Shamim Hossain then took the match away from Nepal putting on an unbroken stand of 130 runs to seal the victory in the last over of their innings. Ali remained two runs short of a century, while Hossain contributed a fluent 42. Ali clobbered 14 fours in his 82-ball 98, while Hossain scored 45-ball 42 with four hits to the fence. Airee returned with figures of 2-59 from eight overs, while Rashid Khan and Chauhan took one wicket each for Nepal.
Asked about the missed opportunity of being a player and coach to have stunned Bangladesh at this level, Das said: "We did beat them in a three-match series in Bangladesh. I think it was in 2017. But yes, had we won today it would have mattered a lot. I wish these young kids will be appreciated for playing above their potential despite not having enough preparations and match exposure. Everybody in Sri Lanka are impressed by the team's standard." Das was part of Nepali team that stunned Bangladesh by 23 runs during the 2001-02 ICC U-19 World Cup plate championship semi-finals in 2001-02. Das had taken two wickets in that match.
Despite back-to-back defeats, Nepal are mathematically still in the hunt for the semi-finals provided they beat the United Arab Emirates in their third and last Group 'B' match on Tuesday. However, that chance is too remote to count considering the huge gap in net-run rate between second-placed Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nepal had lost their opening match against Sri Lanka by five wickets on Friday.