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Shakti Gauchan’s exceptional form helped Nepal reach the semifinal of the World Cup Qualifying Series Division II cricket tournament as he scored an unbeaten century and took four wickets for the 88-run victory against Italy in Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia today.

Shakti scored unbeaten 106 in 103 balls with four boundaries and two sixes as Nepal raced to 304/6 in allotted 50 overs – the highest score in the tournament so far. Italy’s captain-cum-coach Joe Scuderi’s decision to bowl backfired as all Nepali top-order batsmen including aggressive Mehboob Alam batted well. Mehboob scored 51 in 35 balls with 11 fours.

Italy’s tried to match the pace of required run-rate but frequent fall of wicket and spinners’ accurate bowling held them back. They scored 216/7 in 50 overs to lose the match by 88 runs. With the win, Nepal qualify for the semifinal as the runners-up of Group A behind Papua New Guinea and will play Fiji on Friday.

Shakti’s score is the highest score by any Nepali batsman, and only the second century after former captain Raju Khadka’s unbeaten 105 against Bhutan in 2003. He partnered Kaniska Chaugai for 110 runs for third wicket, which is the biggest third-wicket partnership surpassing Binod Das and Raju Khadka’s 107 agaisnt Bhutan.

Openers Paresh Lohani and Alam gave Nepal a good start adding 81 runs before Mehboob fell off Hemanta Jayasena after completing his half-century. Paresh however fell five runs short of his half-century but on his way became the first Nepali batsman to complete 500 runs in international cricket. He has so far scored 524 runs from 24 matches with an average just below 25.

Kaniska was the second highest scorer with 63 off 69 balls that consisted five fours and a six. His partnership with Shakti ensured Nepal cross 200-mark in less than 40 overs. Nepal’s score could have been more if the middle-order batsmen hadn’t failed in attempt to score quickly. Paras Khadka, Binod Das and Unil Shrestha couldn’t stay long.

Shakti showed no sign of tiredness when returned to bowl brilliantly in Italy’s innings. Mehboob got rid of former Lancashire player Scuderi early before Shakti came into action taking two wickets – Jayasena and Alessandro Bonora. Paras then bowled Samantha Ketipe to bring down Italy to 101/4.

Andrea Corberllari (62 off 64) and Nicola Puccio (48 off 95) partnered 78 runs but they were already falling far behind the required run-rate. Shakti added two more, including that of Puccio, to take his tally to four wickets while Raj Kumar Pradhan got Corbellari.