Nepal thumps Hong Kong by 8 wickets, secures semis spot

Kathmandu, Apr. 16: Nepal has secured a place in the semi-final of the ACC Premier Cup after eight-wicket’s dominant triumph over Hong Kong in Muscat, Oman on Monday. 

Having won three consecutive matches, topping the Group A table with six points, Nepal is two wins away from defending its title. 

However, Nepal will play its last group match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and play the semifinal on April 19. 

Hong Kong, on the other hand, is on the brink of exiting the tournament with two points from three games. After conceding a shock defeat against Saudi Arabia on Sunday evening and the loss on Monday morning in Muscat, Hong Kong’s chances of qualifying for the knockout round look slim. 

Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Qatar, and Hong Kong all have two points each, but Saudi Arabia occupies the second spot in the better run rate. With two matches in hand, Saudi Arabia has a chance to advance into the knockout round. However, the race for the second spot is wide open after Qatar stunned Malaysia by four wickets in the other match of Group A today.

Nepal lost two wickets to chase down the medium target of 115 runs in 13 over at Al Amerat Ground. Openers Kushal Bhurtel and Asif Sheikh gave an aggressive start to the Rhinos with a partnership of 70 runs. 

Nepal lost Kushal for leg before in the third ball of the sixth over, but Asif also returned to the pavilion in the next over after adding 40 runs from 18 balls that included three fours and a six. Captain Rohit Paudel and Sundeep Jora then cruised Nepal home with 34 balls to spare. Captain Rohit remained not out for 25 runs, and Sundeep chipped in with 19 runs. Yasim Murtaza and Ehsan Khan were the wicket-takers for Hong Kong.

After securing the spot in the knockout stage, Captain Rohit said that his team would like to continue the momentum in the tournament. “We are well prepared for the tournament. We are focusing on one game at a time. We want to qualify for the Asia Cup. We have three matches left and want to continue the momentum.”

This victory also came as sweet revenge for the Nepali senior sides when they lost to Hong Kong at the latter’s home ground on March 9. Host Hong Kong defeated Nepal by 73 runs in a one-match T20 organised to celebrate the friendship between Cricket Hong Kong and the Cricket Association of Nepal.

After winning the toss, Nepal invited Hong Kong to bat first in the rain-curtailed 18-over-per-inning match. Captain Rohit’s decision to field first was rightly taken as Nepali bowlers and fielders came up with brilliant bowling and fielding to bowl out Hong Kong for 114 runs with one ball to spare. After losing opener Martin Coetzee for eight runs in the third over, Anshyman Rath and Nizakat Khan tried to steady the innings. However, Hong Kong lost both wickets in run outs. Dipendra Sing Airee ran out Nizakat while trying to collect a single run. He added 12 runs in 11 balls. Anshuman also followed the fate of his captain as he too was run out by Gulshan Jha with a direct hit from the boundary. Anshuman contributed 34 runs off 26 deliveries that included four fences and one six. After Anshuman’s fall, Hong Kong’s batting collapsed from 62/3 to 114/10. Zeeshan Ali (14) and Ehsan Khan (11) were other double-figure contributors for Hong Kong. 

Abhinash Bohara was the pick of the bowler for Nepal with a figure of 3-29 in his spell of four overs. Lalit Rajbanshi and Dipendra Singh Airee also dismissed two batters each, while Karan KC took one wicket for Nepal.

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