UAE and Hong Kong progressed to the final of the Asia Cup Qualifiers after a thrilling finale to the league phase on Tuesday, 4 September. Hong Kong saw off Nepal in a low-scoring encounter in Bangi in Malaysia, prevailing by three wickets after bundling Nepal out for 95. Then, over in Kuala Lumpur, United Arab Emirates proved just about good enough for Oman as they sealed a 13-run victory.
The results meant UAE finished atop the table on eight points, with Hong Kong second, ahead of Oman on net run rate after finishing level on seven points.
Captain Rohan Mustafa scored a 104-ball 71 from No.3 as UAE, after being asked to bat, posted 208/8. The importance of Mustafa’s knock was evident in the fact that the next highest score in the innings was the 24 scored by Ashfaq Ahmed, the opener. Mustafa added brief partnerships, the highest among them being the 29 and 26 he put up with Muhammad Usman and Adnan Mufti for the fifth and sixth wickets respectively. Oman, meanwhile, had contributions throughout the line-up. Aqib Ilyas’ 43-ball 45, comprising seven fours, kept them going, even Jatinder Singh (7) and Vaibhav Wategaonkar (17) were dismissed fairly quickly. However, Khawar Ali (20), Ajay Lalcheta (22), Mohammad Nadeem (23) and Naseem Khushi (27) helped keep Oman in the hunt. It eventually proved the difference as they fell agonisingly short. Elsewhere, Anshuman Rath, the captain, was the star for Hong Kong. His 82-ball 52 helped them negotiate a small chase that had gotten considerably tricky.
Nepal had opted to bat, but lost Subash Khakurel in the first ball of the match. It was a sign of things to come – five of their batsmen managed to get into double digits, but none of them could make it count.
Aarif Sheikh’s 53-ball 18 was the highest score of the innings, and it underlined Nepal’s inability to deal with the Hong Kong bowlers, all of whom were among the wickets. Eshan Khan, who returned 4/15, was the pick among them. However, their bowlers did well to fight back. The excellent Sandeep Lamichhane was once again outstanding, running through much of the Hong Kong top order to return 5/27, comprising five of Hong Kong’s top six batsmen.
The winners of the qualifiers will take on India and Pakistan in the group stage – Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in the other group – with their first fixture lined up against Pakistan on 16 September.
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First Published: September 6, 2018, 8:51 AM IST