Afghanistan win ACC Trophy
Afghanistan have become the first ICC affiliate member to win one of the major regional one-day events with a 95 run win over Nepal in the final of the ACC Trophy Elite competition in Kuwait.
Nepal won the toss and chose to bowl first. Karim Sadiq led the way in the early part of their innings scoring a well paced 58. But the wickets were falling around him, and when he was out the score was 110-5. Asghar Stankezai was run out soon afterwards with the score on 114-6, and Afghanistan were in trouble.
But yet again, they dug themselves out of the hole they'd found themselves in, with Raees Ahmadzai and Mohammed Nabi putting on 97 for the seventh wicket before Nabi was out for 48. Ahmadzai passed 50 during the partnership, and he finished on 52.
Afghanistan lost their last wicket from the last ball of their innings having made 224. Binod Das was the pick of the Nepali bowlers with 3-35.
Afghanistan's total was a lot better than what their position at 30 overs suggested, but Nepal would still have been confident of making the target.
But in front of a crowd numbering almost 5000 by the afternoon session, Nepal lost their first four wickets for just 49 runs, putting them straight onto the back foot.
Gyandra Malla (30) and Sharad Vesawkar (35) attempted a recovery, but no other batsman managed to get a start. Afghanistan shared the wickets around, but Shahpoor Zadran deserves special mention for his opening spell of seven overs which went for just 11 runs.
Nepal were bowled out for 129, losing by 95 runs, sparking wild celebrations and what is now a sadly traditional pitch invasion by the Afghan supporters. Crowd control is something the Kuwaiti authorities need to look at if they are to host future tournaments - with the crowd packed in around the boundary rope, they were causing delays to the game as they wandered in front of the sightscreens, and Shahpoor Zadran sustained a mild ankle injury when trying to avoid a collision with the crowd when chasing a ball in the field.
Afghanistan now go into preparation for the World Twenty20 in the West Indies, which starts at the end of this month. Before doing so, they need to address a major problem with their team at the moment - the over-reliance on Mohammed Nabi, Hamid Hassan and, to a lesser extent, Raess Ahmadzai.
With Nabi unable to get a visa until the semi-final stage and Hassan playing with an injury, they were way below their best in the group stages. They again required two of those players to recover them from a losing position in the final. India and South Africa won't allow them to recover from those sorts of positions.
In the other match of the day, Malaysia gave their supporters yet another close match, this time in the third place play-off against Hong Kong.
Hong Kong batted first and were quickly reduced to 4-2, but a 110 partnership for the third wicket between Roy Lamsam (50) and Ilyas Gul (75) recovered their innings. Nizakat Khan dominated the end of the innings, smashing 72 from 46 balls to help take Hong Kong's total to 251-6.
Malaysia's reply was dominated by a fine innings of 129 by Rakesh Madhavan, but aside from his opening partner Faris Almas, no other batsmen was able to stay with him for any length of time and build a partnership. His innings did get Malaysia very close though, and they made 244-8 from their 50 overs, losing by just seven runs.
Malaysia can be very pleased with their performance in this tournament. They beat the UAE and came very close to beating the top three teams. Like Afghanistan though, they tend to over rely on a small number of players. Nevertheless, they will gain great confidence from this.
Malaysia are the hosts for the next ACC tournament, the Under-16 Challenge Cup. They will not be playing in it, but Afghanistan will, along with Bhutan, Brunei, China, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar and Oman.