Afghanistan maul Bhutan; Kuwait edge past Singapore
Nepal brushed aside Hong Kong by 118 runs in their opening match of the ACC Trophy, at Unity. After the early loss of a wicket, Anil Mandal and Shakti Gauchan set the platform for a strong score with their 118-run partnership. Mandal was the more aggressive of the two, striking three sixes and eight fours in his 96-ball 72, while Gauchan contributed 65. Nadeem Ahmed and Moner Ahmed kept things tight after that, snaring eight wickets between them as Nepal finished with 236 for 7. Mehboob Alam’s opening burst ensured the chase never got going, and only Ilyas Gul offered any sort of resistance, with 27. Alam finished with 3 for 33 in his 7 overs, as Hong Kong stuttered to half of what Nepal managed.
Afghanistan continued their fine run of form in recent times, mauling Bhutan by the incredible margin of 393 runs at Hubara. Bhutan elected to field and were left to rue the decision as Afghanistan’s top three took their attack to the cleaners. Openers Karim Sadiq and Noor Ali Noori ran up a partnership of 218 in 25.1 overs, in the process bringing up fine hundreds, before Muhammad Asghar exploded with an 83-ball 151, including nine sixes, to lift the score to 471 for 5. Bhutan was out of the game even before they had the opportunity to bat, but Hamid Hassan ensured that they went home with nothing positive to take from the game. His spell of 6 for 18 shot Bhutan out for 78, and if not for Kumar Subba’s sedate 41, they would have lost by an even bigger margin.
In the only close finish of the day, Kuwait outlasted Singapore by three runs at KEC. Kuwait were lifted to 252 thanks to contributions of 45 from Hisham Mirza, 50 from Lasantha Dimuthu and a quickfire 68 from Saad Khalid. Dharmichand Mulewa finished with three wickets, while Buddhika Mendis, Narender Reddy and Saad Janjua picked two apiece. Singapore’s chase was anchored by Munish Arora’s sparkling 90 off 103 balls, but he had little support from the rest of the top order as Muhammad Amin helped himself to four wickets. Arora perished well short of the target and Singapore seemed out of the game, with the last wicket requiring to make 59 off 43 balls. Thanks to Janjua’s cameo at number nine, they almost pulled it off, but in the end they fell just short of the target. Janjua was unbeaten on 49 off 38 balls, and number eleven Shoib Razak finished with 16 off 19, but it was not enough to get Singapore a win.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo