Nepali youngsters made the nation proud by winning the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-15 Asia Cup at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates today.
Anil Mandal scored 79 and Antim Thapa remained unbeaten on 37 as Nepal defeated neighbor Afghanistan by six wickets in the final of the 13-nation tournament. Man of the match Antim earlier took four wickets to restrict Afghanistan in 147 in 37.3 overs in the 40 over innings.
Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat. The top-order proved the decision right scoring runs at ease. The opening pair of Sajid Khan and Hashmat Ullah, who was later awarded player of the tournament, scored 48 in 10 overs. Sajid scored 24 off 26 balls with four boudaries before being bowled by spinner Angel Acharya while Hashmat got 27 off 46 deliveries.
Angel’s two wicket and one each by Amrit Bhattari and captain Shashi Keshari put them under pressure at 76/4 at the conclusion of 20 overs. However, Javid Ahmadi and Zard Ali partnered 58 runs for fifth wicket to take the team that lost to Nepal by six wickets in league round to an average score.
Introduction of Antim Thapa did the trick for Nepal as he claimed both of them – Javid at 58 and Zard at 16. He took two more to take his tally to four wickets in his 6.3 overs. Shashi too got in action for his three wickets as Afghanistan lost last six wickets in space of 13 runs.
Nepal’s reply was cautious – it was 27/0 in seven overs when lunch was served. But after the lunch, Nepal lost two quick wickets to Sanullah, Dipen Shrestha and Gyanendra Malla, to slump to 30/2. Anil and Antim then played cautiouslu saving wickets and scoring at slow rate. But once they consolidated the innings, Anil got into action scoring quickly and getting the best score by any Nepali in this year’s tournament.
When Anil left the field failing to Aimal after scoring 79 off 100 balls with 10 fours. At the time, Nepal was 10 runs short of victory. Shashi hit two boundaries but failed to stay till the end running himself out before Antim finally hit the winning runs.
It was Nepal’s third title victory, earlier two coming in Youth Asia Cup 2001 in Nepal and 2003 in Pakistan. In 2002, Nepal reached the semifinal of the U-15 Asia Cup before losing to eventual winner Pakistan by 27 runs. This year, no Test nation participated in the tournament.