Nepal asserted their dominance in the Tri-Nation T20I Series with a comfortable 69-run win over Malaysia in the last round robin game of the tournament. Indeed, Dutch coach Ryan Campbell, in the commentary box for a short off-day stint, pondered the prospect of ‘a sleeping giant starting to wake here in Nepal.’
He may well have been talking about Karan KC’s batting. It was KC’s seven towering sixes in eleven balls that made the ultimate difference between the two sides today.
Both sides made two changes to their starting line ups. For Malaysia, bowling all-rounder Dhivendran Mogan replaced Pavandeep Singh, and Ainool Hafiz came in for Shafiq Sharif. Nepal handed Kamal Singh Airee his T20I debut, with Abinash Bohara making way. Sushan Bhari replaced fellow left-arm spinner Shahab Alam.
Ahmed Faiz won the toss and chose to chase once again, hoping no doubt for early wickets, and a crack at Nepal’s relatively untested middle order. The host’s top three batters had other ideas. Sporting new bat sponsors, Aasif Sheikh and Kushal Bhurtel took the game to Malaysia’s bowlers, as they have all week. The latter greeted Fitri Sham with two glorious, consecutive sixes over cover and long-on in the second over. Sheikh then joined the party with a checked drive over long-off for six in the 1st ball of the fourth over.
Although the impressive Muhammad Wafiq accounted for Bhurtel soon after, there was very little else for Malaysia to cheer about in the first ten overs. Captain Malla, who had only faced 21 balls in the entire tournament thus far, scored an attractive 41 with four sixes, and vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee also hit 33 at a strike rate of a 194.11.
Although Anwar Rahman bowled tidy first spell, he had limited support at the other end, with Mogan, and Sharvin Muniandy failing to offer much penetration in the middle overs. The hosts cruised to 148/3 in the sixteenth over, but Fitri Sham bowled a tight one in which he accounted for Airee and Binod Bhandari.
At 150/5 with four overs to go, and Karan KC scoring one in his first two balls, there was little inkling of what was to come next. Sharad Vesawkar did have a premonition of sorts however, reminding viewers of this ‘KC special’ in 2018 just seconds before his first six today. By the end of KC’s 45-run onslaught against Wafiq, Mogan, and Muniandy, Nepal were touching 200 and running away with the game.
Chasing 218 to run, Malaysia’s run chase never really got going. They lost Syed Aziz in the first over leg-before-wicket to an inch perfect in-swinger from Sompal Kami, and Anwar Arudin soon after to the same bowler.
Captain Ahmed Faiz scored a composed 31 runs off 21 balls with 4 fours and a six off Karan KC, but once he and Virandeep Singh had departed with the score on 64/4 in the ninth over, the match was all but over.
Aminudin Ramly made a spirited 41 runs off 18 balls in a late 50-run partnership with young keeper-bat Ainool Hafiz, to bring respectability to the Malaysian total. But the game and their tournament petered out, as Lamichhane mopped up the tail to take his tournament wicket total into double figures.
Although KC was another obvious contender, and debutant Kamal Singh Airee also impressed with three wickets, Sompal Kami was awarded the man of the match for taking 3/20 in his four over spell, including a maiden.
Malaysia were impressive in bursts through out the tournament, but not nearly consistent or clinical enough in crucial moments to pick up win against the Dutch or Nepal. Nonetheless they will go back to Kuala Lumpur with their heads held high.
For the hosts, it is on to what promises to be an exciting final against the Netherlands on Saturday. Tune in for the match report, and a tournament wrap with Emerging Cricket.
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