International, National

Match Preview:Nepal Takes on Afghanistan Today for ACC T20 Cup

The roller-coaster ride called ACC T20 Cup is finally coming to an end and fittingly two teams with the highest cricket followers- Nepal and Afghanistan have stretched the excitement  till the final game.

Nepal will take on Afghanistan today at Tribhuwan University Cricket Ground for the ACC T20 Cup and also to avenge all the demoralizing losses Nepal has faced against Afghanistan in the recent times. With some of the best Afghan players missing and the form Nepali Team is in, Nepal go into the match as favorites.

This year has been one of the most successful years in Nepali Cricket and Nepali Team will be hoping to add one more winner’s trophy just before the year ends. Nepali won ICC Divison IV followed by ACC Elite Cup trophy earlier this year.

Team Nepal has been spectacular with the bat, and since Prithu’s comeback against Malaysia it has revived Nepalese bowling, which seemed a bit rusty in the first two matches. Batting has been the strong hold for Nepal  and throughout the tournament the openers have been rock solid in the beginning to give way for extremely flexible middle order capable of both steadying the innings if wickets fall early or getting big runs right away.

Nepal’s fast bowling has been a big problem for Nepal in the tournament; Nepal played every match with one front line seam bowler and supported by Paras Khadka(and Manjeet in the first two matches). The fast bowling hasn’t however impressed and it’s unlikely to trouble Afghanistan Batsmen.

Afghanistan in the other hand have shown throughout the tournament have fought back at difficult conditions, and that should have given them the confidence that they can win from any condition. The fight back is Afghan’s strong hold in the final match.

Afghanistan came into the tournament with a weaker side, desperate combination of some of the best Afghanistan players with young unheard names. Speculations were they wouldn’t do that well and those speculations were nearly proven correct when Oman and Kuwait both gave Afghanistan a scare. Afghanistan however fought back in the matches defeating both Oman and Kuwait.

They lost against UAE; they fought back from a situation of 17/5 thanks to 72 run innings from Mohammad Nabi.

In the semi final it was the bowlers turn to fight back, after giving Hong Kong lot of run early they restriced them for 110, thanks to young Homza Hotak’s 3 wickets.

Afghan like Nepal has been bothered by the front line seamer- Zadran who hasn’t troubled many batsmen in the tournament. Youngster Aftab Alam has 6 wickets in his name, but the pace spear head who also impressed a lot in Bangladesh Premiere League has only 2 wickets.

Past Results:
The senior side of Nepal and Afghanistan first met in 2004 where Nepal defeated Afghanistan by 47 runs. Since then the Afghan team has grown much stronger, making its way to 2 T20 World Cups and the ODI status, Nepal on the other hand have just climbed division III.

The Afghan senior side since then hasn’t however changed much, Nawroz Mangal(not in the squad)Karim Saqiq, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Zadran played against Nepal in 2004 and still are in Afghan team.

Since 2004 Nepal has never defeated Afghanistan in any match. The reign for Afghanistan against Nepal started in 2007 ACC T20 Cup where they defeated Nepal by 6 wickets. The defeat in T20 was followed by 3 consequetive ODI defeats in Semi- Final of Division V in 2008, Third Place play off of ACC Elite Cup in 2008 again and Final of ACC Elite Cup in 2010.

These two teams met two more times, both in T20 matches: First the previous Edition of ACC T20 Cup
where Afghanistan comprehensively defeated Nepal by 9 wickets in the Semi- Final and then in the ICC World T20 Qualifier where Afghanistan defeated Nepal by 34 runs.

Afghanistan however came into ACC T20 Cup resting 8 of its 14 top notch players: leaving batsmen like Noor Ali, Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Shahzad. Afghan fast bowler Dawlat Zadran who destroyed Nepal’s batting in the last edition of the tournament taking 4 wickets is not in the squad as well.

Afghanistan Squad:
Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Gulbadin Naib, Shapoor Zadran, Aftab Alam, Najibullah Zadran, Nasim Baras, Batin Shah, Mohammad Nasim, Fazal Rahman, Hazma Hotak, Najibullah Zadran

Afghanistan in ACC T20 2013
Form:  W W L W W
Most Runs : Najibullah Zadran 137 in 5 innings/Nabi-125/ Karim-116
Most Wickets: Mohamed Nabi with 8 followed by Aftab Alam and Homza Hotak with 6 each
Best Bowling Performance: Nabi 4/18 against Oman
Best Batting Performance: 72 by Mohamed Nabi against United Arab Emirates
Highest Total :157/5 against Bahrain
Most Sixes :Mohamed Nabi with 6
Semi Final: Defeated Hong Kong by 7 wickets chasing 110 with 16 balls remaining

Nepal Squad:

Shubash Khakurel, Pradeep Airee, Binod Bhandari, Paras Khadka, Prithu Baskota, Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Veswarkar, Shakti Gauchan, Basanta Regmi, Sagar Pun, Chandra Sawad/ Manjeet Shrestha

Nepal in ACC T20 Cup 2013
Form: W L W W W
Most Runs: Pradeep Airee 168 runs in 5 innings with 2 half Centuries
Most Wickets: Basanta Regmi with 10 wickets followed by Shakti Gauchan with 7
Best Bowling Performance: Basanta Regmi 3/17 against Singapore
Best Batting Performance: 87 Paras Khadka against Malaysia
Highest Total: 210/5 against Singapore
Most Sixes: Binod Bhandari, 8 sixes
Semi Final: Defeated United Arab Emirates by 6 wickets chasing 134 with 5 balls remaining

Player to Watch Out
Mohammad Nabi, captaining the side has been leading his team from the front, he is second highest run scorer for Afghan team in the tournament with 125 runs and has taken 8 wickets with the ball. He is a sensible batsman known all around the world, especially amongst the associate and affiliate teams for his hard hitting.

Prithu Baskota after his comeback has won two matches for Nepal with his bowling in this tournament and with that has even shadowed Basanta Regmi’s( 10 wickets-highest wicket taker in the tournament) performance.He has six wickets in 3 matches and has scored a few runs has well. Handy with both bat and ball he has shown in these three matches that he can handle pressure. His performance today will be vital against Afghanistan.

Match Facts:
Nepal Vs. Afghanistan
Venue: Tribhuwan University Cricket Ground
Time: 1:15 NST