Sharjah: The UAE-Nepal final of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Trophy ended in an exciting tie at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Riding on Saqib Ali’s brilliant unbeaten 101 off 103 balls with eight fours and two sixes, backed by skipper Khurram Khan’s 61 runs off 79 balls with five fours, UAE posted 241 for 6.
Nepal chased the target through a fine 94-run opening partnership between Subash Khakurel (55) and Anil Mandal (44), but slipped from a commanding 165 for 2 to tie the score at 241 for 9 in 50 overs. Both teams therefore shared the trophy.
Nepal won the toss and elected to field. They got an early wicket when Arshad Ali got run out for a duck while attempting a quick single to mid-wicket.
In the fifth over, opener Abdul Shakoor pulled Sanjam Regmi straight into the hands of Shakti Gauchan for 20. Gauchan then picked the wicket of hard-hitting batsman Shaiman Anwar, forcing him to cut a wide delivery into the hands of Gyanendra Malla at point for 2.
Three down for 24 runs in 6.4 overs, Haroon Iftikhar and skipper Khurram Khan put on 46 runs for the fourth wicket before Gauchan struck again to make Iftikhar cut him straight to Pradeep Airee at point for 24.
Saqib Ali joined Khan and the pair dominated the Nepal bowling. Ali played some lovely shots, picking the gaps. He even stepped out and hit Paras Khadka over long-on for a huge six. The pair put on 87 runs for the fifth wicket when Gauchan ended Khan’s elegant knock by forcing him to loft into the hands of Paras at long-off.
Though next man Mohammad Azam got run out for 7, Ali along with Rohan Mustafa (21n.o) added another 61 runs for the seventh wicket. Ali was on 88 at the start of the last over from Regmi. He lifted the fifth ball from Regmi over the covers for a six and also hit the last ball for a boundary through the same region to reach his century.
Nepal got off to a great start, but Manjula Gurge ended Mandal’s knock by having him pull into the hands of Khurram Khan at mid-wicket for 44. Three overs later, Saqib Ali forced Khakurel flick into the hands of Ahmad Raza for 55. In the 37th over, Raza struck twice to take the wickets of Malla and Khadka, who had together put on 59 runs for the third wicket. To make matters worse, Shadeep Silva bowled Airee for 16. Arshad Ali put UAE on top, though, dismissing Baskot and Regmi.
In a thrilling finish, Nepal needed 12 runs to win off the last over with two wickets in hand. Khan gave the last over to Silva and Gauchan hit the fourth ball over long-on for a huge six. Needing two runs off the last ball, Gauchan got run out off a direct throw from Raza at long on to end the match in a tie.
UAE 241 for 6 in 50 overs (Abdul Shakoor 20, Haroon Iftikhar 24, Khurram Khan 61, Saqib Ali 101n.o. Rohan Mustafa 21n.o. Shakti Gauchan 3 for 36) Nepal 241 for 9 in 50 overs (Subash Khakurel 55, Anil Mandal 44, G Malla 32, P. Khadka 31, S. Vesawkar 38n.o, Arshad Ali 2 for 50, Ahmad Raza 2 for 44) Man of the match: Saqib Ali. Man of the series: Paras Khadka.