The patient knock from Opener Aasif Sheikh guided Nepal to a three-wicket victory over Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the trilateral series under ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 in Dubai on Friday.
Sheikh held his nerve to stick his feet to the pitch from the word go until his eighth wicket partner Sandeep Lamichhane hit a boundary to see Nepal home. Sheikh hit one maximum and two boundaries in his patient knock of 130-ball 86.
Sheikh paired with Lamichhane for the not-out 77-run stand to hand Nepal the 14th victory from 31 matches. Lamichhane contributed with not out 50-ball 35 that included three boundaries.
This is the biggest eighth-wicket partnership Nepal has ever scored in the ODI. Before this, Sompal Kami and Dipendra Singh Airee had hit 55 runs against Scotland.
Right-hander Sheikh did not find a consistent partner until Kushal Malla joined him to collect 31 runs for the sixth wicket stand. Malla scored 26-ball 23 before being caught and bowled by Bau in the last ball of the 32nd over.
The decision to send tail-ender Lamichhane one position above paid the dividend as he provided a match-winning partnership with wicket-keeper Sheikh. Lamichhane hit Sese Bau for the boundary to kill the match for Nepal.
The victory revived Nepal’s hope of securing One Day International (ODI) status. Nepal needs to finish in the top five positions to secure its ODI Status. Nonetheless, Nepal is still in sixth place with 30 points at the League-2 table. PNG are behind Nepal at the bottom of the table with seven points off 31 matches.
Nepal’s fragile batting was exposed at the pitch of the Dubai Sports Complex for the second day in trot after losing batters in regular intervals. Kushal Bhurtel went for a golden duck while Gyanendra Malla (6), Bhim Sharki (8), Captain Rohit Paudel (1), Aarif Sheikh (1) and Dipendra Singh Airee (8) returned to the pavilion cheaply.
Assad Vala was the pick of the bowler for PNG with three wickets while Semo Kamea and Sese Bau also did the damage to Nepali batting with two wickets apiece.
After the match, Captain Rohit Paudel praised the batting of Aasif and Lamichhane. “Aasif played good innings today. Sandy also showed he could do his job with the bat too.”
“Bowling was on the top of the mark today. However, that could not be seen in our batting, especially middle order, which collapsed.”
The player of the match Shiekh said, it was his dream innings. “We had the worst start but I looked to stay at the crease as much as possible. Despite the wicket fall, I believed the chase was possible. I told Lamichhane to stay in the crease. So he did
and we won.”
Opting to bat first, PNG gathered 179 runs losing all the wickets in 49.2 overs. Openers Tony Ura and Kiplin Doriga gave a decent start to PNG adding 42 runs for the first wicket. Ura top scored with 51-ball 39 before being caught and bowled by Sompal Kami in the 21.5 over. Doriga was trapped lbw by Leg spinner Lamichhane after collecting 26 runs off 43 balls. Middle-order Hiri Hire chipped in with 63-ball 31.
Sese Bau (24-ball 11), Captain Assad Vala (19-ball 11) and Gaudi Toka (43-ball 15) were other batters to make a significant contribution from the top and middle order. Norman Vanua (16-ball 14) was the only batter to score double digits from the lower order for PNG.
Sompal Kami and Dipendra Singh Airee picked two wickets each for Nepal. Karan KC, Lamichhane and Kushal Malla dismissed one batter each to restrict PNG to a medium target.