ACC news April 7, 2010

Afghanistan and Nepal prepare for ACC final

Tony Munro

Tony Munro

A new country will have its name added to the list of ACC Trophy Elite winners when Afghanistan plays Nepal in the final on Friday.

Afghanistan comfortably beat defending champions Hong Kong by five wickets in one semi-final while Nepal held off a brave chase by Malaysia to win by eight runs in the other.

Mohammad Nabi maintained his reputation as Afghanistan's best player to earn the Man-of-the-Match award taking 3 for 35 and then contributing 35 not out in another good all-round performance.

Nabi ended the innings of Hong Kong's top scorer, Hussein Butt (63) to help restrict Hong Kong to 205 all-out in 48.1 overs. Butt had smashed three sixes and four fours in his 113-ball innings. Butt's removal at 152 for 5 in the 40th over stymied his team's momentum which was further slowed when Nabi dismissed Moner Ahmed (18 off 17 including a four and a six).

Afghanistan began their chase of 206 in rollicking fashion scoring at six runs an over, although were precariously placed when captain Nowroz Mangal was bowled by Moner Ahmed for 1. The Afghans were 4 for 89 after 13.1 overs, and in need of a stabilising partnership. This came when Asghar Stanekzai combined with Raees Ahmadzai (38) to put on 81 runs for the fifth wicket. Irfan Ahmed provided late hope for Hong Kong when he took a return catch from Ahmadzai, but this only brought Nabi to the crease. Stanekzai played a key innings for Afghanistan, compiling an unbeaten 55 from 93 balls, including three fours and a six.

Malaysia all-rounder, Suresh Navaratnam, almost pulled off another match-winning performance as he scored 115 as his side fell just eight runs short in the other semi-final against Nepal. Navaratnam took vital wickets in his team's win over United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. As he passed his century it seemed he may play a similar role, this time with the bat, but Malaysia was all-out with two balls remaining. It was seemingly the second unlikely comeback in two days after Nepal amassed 271 for six in their 50 overs. Nepal's total was based around an unbeaten 97 from Sharad Vesawkar with help from Gyanendra Malla (49) and Shakti Gauchan (52).

Friday's final should attract considerable interest, featuring the two teams with the most passionate suuporters in Asian non-Test cricket.

In the play-off for seventh and eighth place, event hosts Kuwait celebrated their last game of the tournament with a comfortable 10 wicket win over Bhutan.

Perhaps wanting to protect their bowlers from conceding another record score, Bhutan opted to bat after winning the toss. The Bhutanese battled hard to survive 41.4 overs to reach 132 all out. Left-hander Sonam Tobgay (48) top-scored for Bhutan while Tshering Tashi made 32. Slow left arm bowler Muhammad Javed was the pick of the Kuwaiti bowlers, taking 3 for 31.

The fact batting is the stronger of the Bhutanese disciplines was evidenced when Kuwait needed just 11.5 overs to overtake Bhutan's total. Kuwait opener Khalid Hussain smashed 83 not out and captain Hisham Mirza an unbeaten 38 to give Kuwait a 10 wicket victory with 139 balls to spare. Both teams can now rest up until December when they are due to play in the World Cricket League Division Eight tournament, also in Kuwait.

The ACC Trophy continues on Thursday when United Arab Emirates and Oman meet in the play-off for fifth and sixth places.

Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo