Armed Police Force (APF) and Tribhuwan Army Club (TAC) are all set to lock their horns in the final of the Prime Minister’s Cup Men’s National Cricket Tournament on Saturday.
In the first semi-final fixture that was played on Wednesday, the Armed Police Force defeated defending champions Nepal Police Club by thirty runs to secure their spot in the final. The same teams had played in the previous edition of the PM Cup final, where Nepal Police club defeated APF clinching the trophy.
Winning the toss and electing to field first, Nepal Police Club restricted APF to 203. Shankar Rana scored 44 off 96 with four boundaries while Bhuwan Karki scored 42 crucial runs in the middle order with a boundary and two sixes. He built in a 64-run partnership with Sundeep Jora (34 off 43) for the fifth wicket. Aarif Sheikh from Nepal Police Club bowled 10 overs picking up 3 for 31 while Lalit Bhandari and Dipendra Singh Airee bagged two wickets each.
Chasing the target of 204 runs, NPC lost their top three batsmen for under double figures. Aarif Sheikh, who was the mainstay batter in the middle order, had to be rushed to the hospital after suffering an injury in the first innings. Pawan Sarraf top-scored 40 off 61 while Rashid Khan and Dipendra Singh Airee scored 34 and 33 each. Later, Aarif Sheikh entered the crease when the team was 9 down and needed 46 runs to win 23 balls. He scored 16 off 14 balls before being dismissed. Nepal Police Club fell for 173 runs, losing their match by 30 runs. Bhuvan Karki finished with 4 for 21 while Abinash Bohara, Kamal Singh Airee and skipper Sharad Veshawkar picked two wickets each. Bhuwan Karki was awarded man of the match for his all-round performance. A scorecard can be found here.
In the second fixture of the semi-finals, Tribhuwan Army Club defeated Bagmati Province by 94 runs, registering their place in the final. Winning the toss and electing to field, the Bagmati Province picked up early wickets, restricting Army to 17/3 at 7.1 overs. Bhim Sarki (40 off 61) and Lokesh Bam (23 off 30) partnered 56 runs for the fourth wicket. But it was Rajesh Pulami Magar and Bikram Sob who partnered together in a crucial partnership of 92 for the seventh wicket. Pulami scored 65 off 91 (with four boundaries and two sixes) while Bikram Sob scored 35 off 58 with three boundaries. Gautam KC from Bagmati Province claimed five for 61, while four of their bowlers bagged one wicket each.
Army Club bowled exceptionally well to defend a total of 229 runs, keeping the chasing side to 135. Skipper Gyanendra Malla scored 47 off 61 in the chase while Bipin Acharya’s 23 and Nandan Yadav’s unbeaten 22 were the only significant individual scores for the team. Jitendra Mukhiya took 4-31 while Bikram Sob and Shahab Alam bagged three wickets each. Rajesh Pulami Magar was awarded Man of the Match for his match-winning half-century at a crucial stage. A scorecard can be found here.
Ahead of the final, the captain of the APF Sharad Veshawkar reflected in a press conference.
“We are happy that we have been playing consistently well. Our team has tackled the difficult situations properly and has won matches overcoming the challenging situations. This is a positive sign and it shows how hungry we are as a team to perform better. We are happier that rather than individual performances, our whole team as a unit has performed well. So, I’m very hopeful we will produce a good result in the final.”
Captain of the Tribhuwan Army Club Binod Bhandari was equally expressive.
“We do not have many things to think about, if we look at the past games in the tournament we have played well as a team and our boys have delivered much better in challenging situations.”
“We are not focused on past results [on being three times finalists, one trophy shared, two losses]. Nobody in the team is thinking about it, we are looking forward to playing our game well and lifting the trophy.”
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