Army confirms title showdown with Police at PM Cup

Kathmandu, Feb. 2: Tribhuwan Army Club has entered the finals of the PM Cup Men’s National Cricket Tournament-2024 for the sixth consecutive season defeating Gandaki Province on the final day of the group-stage matches on Thursday. 

With 14 points from seven wins in nine matches, Army stands two points clear of 3rd and 4th positioned Bagmati and Madhes respectively. 

Army qualified in the finals of the Men’s PM Cup five earlier editions in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, and lifted the trophy in 2021 defeating APF Club. 

In the first edition in 2017, Army and Nepal Police Club were announced as joint winners after the match was affected due to rain. Army lost the trophy to APF twice, in 2018 and 2022, and to Police in 2019.

Alike the past five editions, departmental teams continued their dominance as two of the three clubs progressed to the finals in the sixth edition as well. Second-positioned Army will face table-topper Police at TU International Cricket Ground on Saturday for the sixth edition’s trophy. 

Winning its final league-stage match against Sudur Pashchim Province at Mulpani International Cricket Ground on Thursday, Police stands at the top of the table with 18 points as ‘undefeated’.

Meanwhile, Army did not get an easy win. Electing to bat first, Army was bundled out for a paltry 132 in 39.1 overs with opener Imran Sheikh as the highest scorer (34 off 64). While Sompal Kami added 23 off 39, captain Binod Bhandari, Bhim Sarki and Kushal Malla only contributed 19, 10 and 15 runs respectively.

Sandeep Rajali and Basir Ahamad departed for a duck while Bibek Yadav (1 off 7) and Santosh Karki (2 off 15) at least opened their accounts. Bipin Khatri, Amrit Gurung, Krishna Poudel and Kamal Pariyar bagged two wickets each while Sandeep Parajuli and Roshan Gautam bagged one each for Gandaki.

Nevertheless, Gandaki’s batting faced more devastation than the Army’s as they chased a low target.  Opener Ishwar Chhetri (16 off 27) and Karan Pangeni (15 off 28) were the only batsmen for Gandaki to score in double figures before the team lost its ninth wicket in the 24th over for 64 runs. Kamal Pariyar remained absent hurt leading the officials to declare Army as the winner.

Shahab Alam took four wickets, Kushal Malla and Jitendra Mukhiya bagged two each, while Sompal Kami did not bag any. 7 wickets for Dipendra 

Electing to bat first, Nepal Police Club did not have a good start against Sudur Pashchim as it lost its openers – Dilip Nath (6 off 19) and Kushal Bhurtel (5 off 7) – by the first powerplay. 

However, the middle order sustained the team. Shankar Rana (46 off 52) and captain Dipendra Singh Airee (44 off 38) could not reach the 50-run mark while Arjun Saud and Aarif Sheikh added 32 and 26 runs respectively.

Sher Malla was Sudur’s highest wicket-taker with three; Narayan Joshi, Bikash Aagri and Milan Bohora bagged two each while Dipak Chand took one.

While Sudur Pashchim looked forward to ending Police’s unbeaten run, Airee clearly said ‘no’ sending seven batsmen, including the top five, back to the pavilion single-handedly.

Airee showcased the best bowling figures in the edition so far with his 7-wicket haul in 10 overs, including four maidens, and giving only 20 runs. While there have been seven six-wicket hauls and 13 five-wicket hauls in this edition, it is the first seven-for.

Sagar Dhakal, Lalit Bhandari and Lalit Rajbanshi took the remaining three wickets for Police as Sudur Pashchim got bundled out at 120 in 37.1 overs. 

Gajendra Bohora was Sudur’s highest scorer followed by 24 off 18 and 24 off 38 from the bats of Kiran Thagunna and Naren Saud respectively.

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