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    Aarif Sheikh, bowlers help Nepal win the opener against Oman

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    Nepal got off to an impressive start in their opening match of Group A games of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, on Friday.

    Nepal got the better of hosts Oman in a low-scoring game at the Oman Academy 1 ground in the morning session of the tournament.

    Defending a total of 117, Nepal bowlers, led by their skipper and leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, had the hosts batters at sea as they collapsed to 78 in 17 overs.

    Kamal Airee was the most successful bowler with three for 15 while Lamichhane picked up two for 20 and was ably supported by off-spinner Dipendra Airee, who claimed two for 15.

    Oman lost opener Kashyapkumar Prajapati and Ayaan Khan in two overs to leave the hosts at 7-2.

    Jatinder Singh and Khawar Ali tried to rebuild the innings but in the sixth over, a brilliant piece of fielding at mid-off by Dipendra Airee saw Jatinder run out while trying to steal a single.

    The run out of Jatinder began an exodus as Oman lost four wickets in four overs as Lamichhane castled Khawar Ali in the seventh over and Dipendra Airee sent back skipper Maqsood in the next over. There was no stopping the Nepal bowlers in the ninth over, Shoaib Khan was caught behind by Aasif Sheikh off Abinash Bohara.

    Syed Aamir Kaleem and wicketkeeper Naseem Khushi stopped the slide and negotiated the middle overs till the 13th over when Khushi, who had hit two sixes in a span of four balls off Lamichhane, fell off the penultimate ball of the over.

    The wicket ended a 31-run seventh-wicket stand with Khushi ending as the hosts’ top scorer with 24 off 18.

    Kaleem was leg before to Dipendra in the next over and, Kamal Airee, a cousin of Dipendra, cleaned up the last two batsmen in the 17th for a solid win.

    Oman had earlier won the toss and elected to bowl and the decision by skipper Zeeshan Maqsood was vindicated as pacer Bilal Khan got them two early wickets in his opening two-over spell. He sent Aasif Sheikh back to the pavilion off the last ball of his first over and then had Kushan Bhurtel dismissed in his second over to leave Nepal struggling at 12-2 in three overs.

    The experienced duo of Gyanendra Malla and Dipendra Airee then pushed the total to 33 before Gyanendra was castled by Fayyaz Butt in the seventh over. Dipendra, too departed soon, and it was left for Lokendra Bam and Aarif Sheikh to stitch together a crucial stand.

    However, Oman’s leg-spinner Khawar Ali ended that partnership when Bam was caught by Kaleemullah in the 14th over. Aarif, who was later named the player of the match, stood firm and played a patient knock of 38 off 37 to steer his side past 100.

    Lamichhane’s seven-ball quickfire 16, which included a six and a boundary, helped the team reach 117, a total they defended with a splendid display of bowling.

    Speaking at the post-match presentation, winning captain Lamichhane said, “The players were absolutely fantastic. To defend such a total demonstrated the never-say-die spirit and I am proud of them. Aarif’s knock was crucial, and we knew that once we get the early breakthroughs, we could make a match of it. Dipendra’s run out of Jatinder Singh was another key moment of the match.”

    “We didn’t click as a batting unit. No one could stay at the wicket for long and losing wickets at regular intervals made it very difficult. We will come back strongly tomorrow [vs Canada] and take forward the positives from this match,” Oman captain Zeeshan Maqsood said.

    On Saturday, Philippines will take on Nepal at Oman Academy 2.

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