KATHMANDU, Oct 10: Nepal defeated Malaysia by 21 runs on Wednesday to reach the second consecutive final of the ACC Trophy Elite.
Captain Paras Khadka and vice-captain Gyanendra Malla put up a 112-run partnership for the third wicket to take Nepal to 241/9 in 45 overs while Prithu Baskota took three wickets to restrict Malaysia to 220/9 in 45 overs.
The match was reduced to 45 overs in each innings due to dense fog in the morning at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
It is the third ACC Trophy Elite final for Nepal and on all three occasions Nepal has defeated Malaysia in the semifinals. However, Nepal is yet to clinch the title of ACC Trophy Elite.
Malaysia won the toss and elected to field first. Nepal started disastrously as it lost openers Subash Khakurel (3 runs) and Anil Mandal (8 runs) when the team score was 21/2 in 6.2 overs. However, Khadka and Malla played sensible innings. Khadka scored 89 runs off 96 balls. He struck 10 fours and a six.
It was the second consecutive half-century by the Nepali captain, who had scored an unbeaten century against Kuwait. Khadka is the tournament´s leading scorer so far. Khadka has scored 260 runs in five matches with an average of 86.66 and strike rate of 109.70.
Malla scored 34 runs off 60 balls including two boundaries before being run out by Anwar Rahman.
Sharad Vesawkar chipped in with 37 runs off 44 balls and Pradeep Airee added 11 runs off 14 balls. More importantly, Nepali U-19 captain Prithu Baskota added a quick-fire 34 runs. He faced 21 balls and hit three boundaries and two sixes.
Nazril Rahman took four wickets for Malaysia while Khizar Hayat Durrani, Faruq Hakimin and Anwar Rahman claimed a wicket each.
In chasing a 242-run target, Malaysia lost opener Anwar Arudin (8 runs) early. However, opener Faizal Abu Hasan (33 runs) and the Malaysian middle order threw a stiff challenge to Nepali bowling attack.
Nepali pacer Amrit Bhattarai, who claimed the wicket of Arudin, had to leave the ground while bowling his fourth over after a severe chest pain. Bhattarai could bowl only three balls in the fourth over and Airee had to complete the over.
Ahmed Faiz (29 runs), Faiz (23 runs), Suhan Kumar (43 runs) and Shafiq Sharif (42 runs) were the major contributors for Malaysia.
As long as the partnership between Suhan Kumar and Shafiq Sharif was on, it looked as if Malaysia could stun Nepal, but Nepal crawled back with quick wickets and qualified for the final.
Baskota was the most successful Nepali bowler as he took three wickets. Shakti Gauchan took two wickets while Bhattarai, Khadka, Basanta Regmi and Bhuvan Karki took a wicket each.
Nepali captain Khadka was adjudged man-of-the-match for his brilliant knock.
"It´s always good to be in the final. From here we can expect to win the tournament," said Nepali team coach Pubudu Dassanayake. "The guys are playing quality cricket. The only area we are struggling is the fast bowling as both our fast bowlers are injured," he added.
Dassanayake said that fast bowlers Bhattarai and Binod Das are to meet doctors on Wednesday night. "We are not sure if any of them will be available for the final. We can confirm it only by Thursday evening," said Dassanayake.
Dassanayake applauded Nepali batsmen. "Now, we are used to the 50-over game. We are easily playing 50 overs. Whatever hard work we have done in the last four months is coming through the bat now," said Dassanayake.
UAE stuns Afghanistan
Nepal will take on the UAE in the final as the host stunned defending champion Afghanistan by eight wickets. The UAE bowled out Afghanistan for 70 runs in 30.4 overs and met the target in 23.4 overs losing only two wickets.
Nepal had defeated the UAE by four wickets in the opening match of the tournament.