Nepal made to the semifinal of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) U-15 Cup Cricket Tournament finishing second in Group A after drawing the final league match against Singapore at the Kelab Aman Ground here today.

Nepal outplayed Singapore pocketing 12 points, due to the first innings lead, to strengthen its second position in the group. Nepal accumulated a total of 31 bonus points in the three league matches while Singapore could only manage 8 points in the match and a total of 26 points.

Malaysia, with two outright wins, moved into the semifinals as the group winner with 55 points. Nepal now meets Group B leader Bahrain on Sunday at the same ground. From Group B, UAE entered the last four pulling a surprise win against Kuwait.

For Nepal, man of the match Subendu Pandey made a valiant half century in the second innings as Nepal gave Singapore the target of 186 runs in more than an hour’s play. When the match ended Singapore was 71/3 after 19 overs.

Earlier in the morning, Singapore resumed their first innings. The first breakthrough came in the very first over of the day with wicket keeper and vice captain Aakash Pariyar running out Singapore skipper Timothy Rushil. Opener Korak Ganguly topscored with 36 runs as Singapore declared the first innings at 72/9 in 48 overs.

Nepal claimed four bowling points in the innings much due to the improved performance from leg spinner Rochak Bhatta. He took three wickets in 15 overs giving away 20 runs while Krishna Karki added one more wicket to his overnight two wickets. Nepal was brilliant in the field today affecting two more run outs.

In the second innings, opener Subendu was the only one to score with Aakash Pariyar (12*) as the other top scoring batsman. Aakash retired hurt in two runs because of back pain and later resumed the innings at the fall of 6th wicket. Subendu on the other hand kept Nepal’s pursuit to the semifinals alive scoring 59 runs. In his 123-ball innings, he hit five fours before being bowled out by Alagppan Senthil. Five of Nepali batsmen including skipper Prithu Banskota, Bibek Dali, Santosh Bhatta, Rochak Bhatta and Krishna Karki, did not score.

Rezza Gaznavi and Alagppan Senthil were the most successful bowlers for Singapore taking three wickets each as Nepal conceded five bowling bonus points to Singapore in the second innings. Nepal could have opted for a declaration with the lead of over 150 and try to take more bowling bonus points, if not go for an outright win, in Singapore second innings but coach Roy Dias did not take the risk and went on to ensure Nepal’s entry into the semifinals.

In the second Singapore innings Nepal only managed one bowling points taking three Singapore wickets but by virtue of the first innings lead, Nepal accumulated five more bonus points in the draw. Pradeep Airee took two wickets while Krishna Karki, one of the leading wicket takers of the tournament with 14 wickets, claimed the other wicket for Nepal.

“I ‘m really happy because I to go to the last four with just a bunch of rookies is a great performance,” said a relieved coach Dias. “I had confidence and was able to play this innings for my country,” said an excited Pandey who was dropped for the first match and promoted as an opener in the last match.

Photos/Text by Devendra, Malaysia