KATHMANDU, Oct 4: Nepali national cricket team finally broke the jinx against the UAE and clinched its first ever victory over the UAE in the one-day format of the game on Wednesday.
Nepal had a rollercoaster ride but ultimately won its first match of the ACC Trophy Elite by four wickets against the host UAE at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Nepal had lost all the six matches played against the UAE in the past.
Chasing a 134-run target, Nepal lost opener Subash Khakurel (1 run), Gyanendra Malla (4 runs) and captain Paras Khadka (4 runs) cheaply and was at 11/3 in 6.3 overs. After scoring eight runs in the third over of the innings, Nepal could not add even a single run in the next five overs.
However, opener Anil Mandal did not lose his cool and put up a 37-run fourth wicket partnership with Sharad Vesawkar (16 runs off 51 balls). They faced 107 balls to score 37 runs.
As Nepal was going slow, Pradeep Airee entered the crease blazing all guns. He opened his account with a towering six. Airee (17 runs off 24 balls) put up a 46-run fifth wicket partnership with Mandal. Airee hit two sixes.
Mandal played cautiously and waited until the 74th ball for his first boundary. He scored 63 runs off 129 balls including five boundaries. Arshad Ali took his wicket in the first ball of 39th over, when Nepal was 112/6.
Prithu Baskota chipped in and remained unbeaten with an invaluable 15 runs off 24 balls while Shakti Gauchan added unbeaten eight runs to seal the victory in 45.2 overs.
Manjula Guruge, who has inflicted damage to Nepal earlier, took three wickets while Arshad Ali claimed two wickets.
Earlier, Shakti Gauchan completed a five-wicket haul to limit the UAE to 133 runs in 40.5 overs. It is the second five-wicket haul for Gauchan in the one-day format at the international level.
As Nepali spin bowling dominated the UAE batsmen, Basanta Regmi claimed three wickets. More importantly, Nepali medium pacers, Amrit Bhattarai, skipper Khadka and Pradeep Airee were well supported by the spinners. Bhattarai and Khadka claimed a wicket each.
Mohammad Ahmed was the top scorer for the UAE with 33 runs including three boundaries and two sixes. Openers Haroon Iftikhar (18 runs) and Abdul Shakoor (15 runs), captain Khurram Khan (20 runs), Rohan Mustafa (12 runs) and Arshad Ali (12 runs) were the other top contributors for the UAE.
"We played a fantastic game today (Wednesday). We always believed that we belong to Division 1. Today, we proved it by beating the UAE. Well done and all the credits to boys," wrote an overwhelmed Nepali team coach Pubudu Dassanayake on Facebook.
Nepali opener Mandal was adjudged man-of-the-match.
Nepal will take on Kuwait in its next match on Saturday.
Longest winning streak
With the victory over the UAE, Nepali national cricket team stretched its winning streak to nine matches in the one-day format.
Nepal has remained undefeated in the one-day format since losing to the USA in August 19, 2010 during the ICC World Cricket League Division 4 held in Italy.
Nepal had defeated Cayman Islands and Tanzania in its last two matches of the Division 4 tournament held in Italy. Nepal then won all the six matches of the Division 4 tournament held in Malaysia last month.
Earlier, Nepal had won eight consecutive matches in 2003/2004 and it was Nepal´s longest winning streak in the one-day format.