Nepal throw away golden chance to beat Afghanistan
The ACC Emerging Nations Championship got under way today in Singapore, and the tournament kicked off with a thriller of a match between Afghanistan and Nepal at the Padang.
Afghanistan batted first after being put in by Nepal captain Paras Khadka, and found going tough against the Nepalese bowling attack. They lost wickets regularly throughout their innings with most batsmen struggling to get a start against some tight bowling.
Basant Regmi bowled the best, taking 5-31, but credit must also go to Shakti Gauchan, who went for just 18 runs from his ten overs. Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai and Gulbadin Naib were the only Afghan players to reach 30 and the team were restricted to 169-9 from their 50 overs.
Rain meant that Nepal's target was adjusted to 161 from 46 overs, and they set off in pursuit of that target, looking very comfortable even after Paras Khadka was the fourth man out in the 38th over with the score on 131 having scored 60 from 62 balls. The scoring rate did slow down after his dismissal though, and they scored just four from the next 13 balls before Prithu Baskota was the next man to be dismissed.
Sharad Vesawkar and Basant Regmi then consolidated and got Nepal into a position where they needed 17 from the last three overs, which should have been a simple task with five wickets in hand. After Regmi took a single from the first ball of the over, which was followed by a dot, Vesawkar hit a no ball through mid-off for four, then taking two from the free hit, and Nepal needed just nine from 15, still with five wickets in hand.
But panic inexplicably set in. Vesawkar attempted a risky two from the next ball and was run out. Sagar Pun took one from the last two balls of the over and Nepal now needed seven from the last two overs. Again, something that should have been relatively straightforward.
Pun was run out from the first ball of the penultimate over. Two more runs were added before Gauchan was also run out from the fifth ball of the over before a dot ball from the last ball left Nepal needing five from the last over, now with just two wickets in hand.
Nawroz Mangal came on to bowl, and he's always a man to rely on in a clutch situation. Regmi took a single from the first ball fo the over and there was then another run out, making five for the innings in total. Regmi then hit the ball straight to Stanikzai at midwiccket and Nepal had lost their last five wickets for just five runs in 12 balls, giving Afghanistan a three run win which eeven they must have thought unlikely.
The other match of the day was never going to be the equal of that contest as hosts Singapore were bowled out for 121 by Bangladesh Under-23s, who chased down their target in 26.4 overs to win by 8 wickets.
Bangladesh Under-23s will be the only one of the four teams who played today to be in action again tomorrow, when they play Sri Lanka Under-23s. The game of the day for many though will be the match between India Under-23s and Pakistan Under-23s, always a highly anticipated contest whatever the level.
Afghanistan's next match will be on Monday when they play Pakistan Under-23s, a day which will also see Singapore play the United Arab Emirates. Nepal have to wait until Tuesday for their next match, and they will take on the India Under-23 side.