Afghanistan through to semis; Sri Lanka fight off battling Nepal
The quarter final stage at the Asian Games concluded today with Afghanistan playing Hong Kong and Nepal playing Sri Lanka. The winners were as expected, but Nepal gave Sri Lanka a major scare and almost knocked them out of the tournament.
The opening match of the day was between Hong Kong and Afghanistan. Hong Kong were in confident mood heading into the match, but they came up against the sort of pace bowling that their first round opponents Nepal and the Maldives just didn't have.
Opening bowlers Shapoor Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf steamed through the Hong Kong top order causing them to collapse to 15-6, Zadran taking 2-6 and Ashraf 3-8. Jamie Atkinson and Nadeem Ahmed staged a mini-recovery with 26 run partnership, but they were the only two to reach double figures and Hong Kong made just 63 in 17.4 overs.
The target was little problem for Afghanistan, and they scored the required runs in 13.2 overs to win by 8 wickets, with Mohammad Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal both scoring 20. They will play Pakistan in tomorrow's semi-final.
Nobody gave Nepal a chance against Sri Lanka, and after Nepal's innings, they were looking well out of it. Gyanendra Malla's 30 was the only highlight of a low score of 72 in 19.4 overs. Jehan Mubarak was the pick of the bowlers with 3-6.
Sri Lanka looked to be cruising at 31-1, but a remarkable display of bowling and fielding from Nepal caused them to collapse to 42-7. Nepal were in reach of a stunning upset. And when Dilhara Lokuhettige was next out with the score on 56-8, Nepal were probably on top.
But Sajeewa Weerakoon hung around like a carbuncle. Nepal just couldn't get him out. Gyanendra Malla came on to bowl the penultimate over with five runs needed. Paras Kahdka made an adjustment to the field halfway through the over, moving the mid-on fielder. In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, Weerakoon then hit a four right through where the fielder was standing to bring the scores level.
The next ball was hit for a single to secure a two wicket win for Sri Lanka. Roy Dias, a former Sri Lankan Test player and current Nepal coach very nearly guided his team to an almighty upset in what was his last match in charge. A second string Sri Lanka team it may have been, but Nepal will take a lot of confidence from this match.
Sri Lanka will play Bangladesh in tomorrow's second semi-final.