Nepal wrapped up their Asia Cup debut with a 10-wicket (DLS method) loss to India in Pallekele, Sri Lanka on Monday.
Nepal lost its first match against World Number One Pakistan by a massive 238 runs. After Pakistan bundled Nepal out for 104 runs in 23.4 overs in the inaugural match in Multan, a similar fate was expected against the southern neighbour.
However, the Nepali batter made the most out of the sloppy fielding of the Indian fielder to post a challenging total of 230 runs, losing all wickets in 48.2 overs. A resilient batting display brushed aside the nightmarish batting against World Number One in the first match of Nepal in the continental tournament.
With rain interrupting the match in frequent intervals, two-time world champion India were given a reduced target of 145 in 23 overs in a rain-interrupted match.
Heavy rain stopped the chase of India in 2.1 overs when Captain Rohit Sharma (4) and Shubman Gill (12) were on the crease with 17 runs on the board.
Skipper Sharma and Gill resumed India’s chase in dominating fashion as they made light work of Nepali bowlers by chasing a victory with 17 balls to spare.
Sharma clubbed five sixes and six fours in his not-out 58-ball 74 while Gill chipped in with an unbeaten 62-ball 67 that included seven fences and one six.
Their ton-up partnership for the first wicket was enough for India to register the first victory of the tournament. India’s first match against Pakistan was washed out forcing both teams to share points.
With a comprehensive win, India joined Pakistan in the super four of the tournament from Group A. From Group B, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are fighting for the super four place.
After being invited to bat first by India, Openers Kushal Bhurtel and Asif Sheikh provided a decent start by adding 65 runs for the first wicket.
India dropped three catches inside the first five overs, with Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan dropping Bhurtel and Virat Kohli dropping a sitter of Aasif Sheikh.
Bhurtel went on to achieve his 1000 ODI runs and scored 38 before being dismissed as the first wicket in 9.5 overs. He cracked two sixes and three boundaries off 25 balls. Medium pacer Kushal Shardul gave the breakthrough to India by getting Bhurtel caught by wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan.
Another opener Asif Sheikh also went on to play a crucial innings of 58 runs, contributing the highest score for Nepal. He smacked four fences in his patience 97-knocks. Sheikh also shared 31 runs with Gulshan Jha before falling as the fifth wicket of Nepal. Mohammad Shiraj top-edged Sheikh by Virat Kohli, who took a one-handed catch of the Nepali opener at short cover in 29.5 overs.
India tried to script a comeback with the help of Spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who got three wickets in the middle overs to keep Nepali batters in check.
After Bhurtel’s departure, Nepal lost Bhim Sharki (7), Captain Rohit Paudel (5) and Kushal Malla (2) to the ball of Spinner Jadeja.
However, Nepal still held on with everything they had with the help of some gutsy cameos by Jha (23), Dipendra Singh Airee (29) and Sompal Kami (48).
Jha became the second victim of Shiraj as he hit three boundaries off 35 balls in his brief stay. Shiraj edged him to Wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan in 31.5 overs.
Airee and Kami resisted the Indian bowling by putting on 50 runs for the seventh wicket. Rain came to play in 37.5 overs when Nepal was 178/6 with Dipendra Singh Airee (27) and Sompal Kami (11) on the crease.
Hardik Pandaya trapped Airee leg before breaking the partnership in 41.1 overs. Airee hit three fences off 25 balls. Kami cruised Nepal past 200 and was out in the 47.2 overs with 228/8 on the board. He clubbed two maximums and one four off 56 deliveries. Kami was two runs short of a half-century as Mohammed Shami made him caught behind by Kishan.
Kami also put on a 34-run stand with Sandeep Lamichhane for the eighth wicket. Lamichhane (9) was run out, while Lalit Rajbanshi was bowled out for a duck by Siraj as a last wicket.
Jadeja and Siraj were the best bowlers for India, with bowling figures of 3 for 40 and 3 for 61, respectively. Shami, Pandaya and Shardul took one wicket each.
Rohit Paudel’s team qualified for the Asia Cup after winning the ACC Men’s Premier Cup title on May 2. The dream of Nepal’s playing against the senior sides of India and Pakistan got materialized after they were clubbed with the cricket giants in Group A of the continental tournament.
Before the Asia Cup, Nepal had not faced the senior sides of India and Pakistan. Playing against the cricket powerhouse was not only a fanboy moment for Nepal but also a learning experience at a higher level.
The Rising Nepal