Pradeep Aire stroked Nepal to a strong position on the first day of the semifinal of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) U-15 Elite Cup Cricket Tournament against Bahrain Sunday at the Kelab Aman Ground with a breezy half century.

Pradeep scored his maiden half-century (50*) in just 57 deliveries with seven boundaries when Nepal was under pressure at 109/7 to take the total to 169/9. Nepal further strengthened its position in the match taking six Bahrain wickets before the end of play. Bahrain is at 65/6 in 38 overs and is still 104 runs behind the defending champion.

Pradeep, who came in at number eight for Nepal, took the initiative and played attacking cricket. “Pradeep batted us out of trouble with a very good innings. To play such an innings under pressure will also do a great deal to the team’s morale,”said coach Roy Dias in appreciation. “I never believed that I would be able to play such an innings. I can’t express my happiness,”said the 10th grader from Mahendranagar.

Earlier, opener Sagar Pun played his part after skipper Prithu Banskota decided to bat first. He and Subendu Pandey gave Nepal a good start with a 32-run opening stand before Subendu edged one to the wicketkeeper for 14 runs. Sagar went on to score 48 valuable runs for nepal at the top in his usual long inings hitting two boundaries off 108 balls. Prithu lost his middle stump while trying to cut one outside off stump for seven runs while Aakash also edged one behind the stumps for a couple of runs.

Nepal at one stage was reeling at 109/7 with still 14 overs remaining in the first innings and looked like giving Bahrain full bowling bonus points. Then Pradeep went on a rampage counter-attacking the Bahrain bowlers. He came in in the 44th over and remained unbeaten as Nepal did well to concede only four bowling points losing nine wickets. Moreover, he took Nepal past 150 runs that gave Nepal one batting bonus points. He hit Bahrain captain David Mathias for three boundaries in the 48th over to stamp Nepal’s authority in the match.

Ayush Sharma, who only scored six runs, did very well to stay with him till the 56th over. Rochak Bhatta who joined in as the last batsman remained unbeaten on nought but played 14 balls in the 17-run last wicket partnership. Santosh Bhatta scored seven runs playing 28 balls while Surendra Chand made six in 25 balls. Bibek Dali did not trouble the scorers while Krishna Karki got one.

Salman Saikh was the most successful Bahrain bowler taking five wickets for 34 runs in 11 overs while skipper David and Karan Singh took two wickets each.

Nepal earned three bowling bonus points too on the day rattling Bahrain to 65/6. Krishna Karki gave Nepal a double breakthrough in his fifth over. He first removed opener Samuel Vegas for seven runs while vice captain and wicket keeper Aakash Pariyar’s brilliance gave him his second wicket in the next ball as he stumped Sameer Zulfiqar for nought. Skipper Prithu once again led Nepal in the field with a brilliant run out of opener Divyesh Nambiar (10) with a direct hit from the point region as Bahrain was reduced to 26/3 in 16 overs.

Nepal’s batting hero Pradeep Airee gave Nepal another breakthorugh in the 25th over while leggie Rochak Bhatta claimed the last two wickets of the day. Skipper David Mathias is unbeaten for Bahrain on

26 runs while the other not out batsman Anant Bahl is playing on seven.

Nepal will look to bowl out Bahrain as early as possible and take lead in the first innings that will yield five bonus points in case of a draw. Nepal can even go for an outright win if it can declare with enough time to take 10 Bahrain wickets.

So far Nepal and Bahrain have got four bonus points each on the first day.

By Devendra, Malaysia