Nepal, playing close to perfect cricket, in front of a raucous partisan crowd estimated to be 8,000 strong, beat Malaysia by 10 wickets in the Final of the ACC U-17 Elite Cup at Tribhuvan University. They have now won ACC age-group championships in all categories, including women's.

"We just couldn't cope with the pressure," said Malaysia's captain Keithan Goonasageran afterwards, "playing in front of a crowd like this for the first time shook a few of our players but really it was the spot-spot-spot bowling of Nepal's spinners that hurt us."

Malaysia’s first 50 took 13.2 overs, their next 50 took 20 as the Nepali spinners, backed up by athletic fielding and acute placement choked the life out of the vaunted Malaysian middle-order. Goonasageran, victim to leg-spinner Rochak Bhatta, in charging down the wicket at the start of the 31st over, in a hapless attempt to break the stranglehold, was the most culpable of the batsmen. “The boys weren’t taking enough singles,” said Malaysia’s coach Haris Abu Baker.

Malaysia showed enough talent to suggest that their status as ACC Elite nation is assured, little wicket-keeper/opener Zubair Norazmi played some sublime drives, as did Goonasageran himself but they were few and far between. A few more game-skills, like the Nepali players have, and Malaysia would not have succumbed so easily. "On talent the teams are quite close," said Nepal's coach Roy Dias, "Malaysia have improved a lot since 2005 (the last time the two teams met, in the ACC U-19 Cup Final). What is most satisfying from the neutral point of view is that two countries with 100% local players have reached the Final and played good cricket."

Nepal have actually been under-performing in this tournament now, coming through hard-fought games against Hong Kong and UAE not totally convincingly but today they played like champions. The bowlers did what they could and the batsmen – just two of them needed – Sagar Pun and Aakash Pariyar did the rest.

Domestic league Twenty20 phenomenon Sagar Pun's had a quiet tournament up to the Final, today he was a Virender Sehwag. Late cuts were interspersed with dynamic strokes in front of the wicket, touch was alternated with power: audacious, assured, unstoppable. Even when he gave a chance, when on 34, he got away with it. "We lost heart things didn't go our way early on, we kind of gave up," admitted Malaysia's captain. He'd have needed a fielder in the crowd to catch the 6 with which Sagar Pun reached his 50 and took Nepal past 100 at the start of the 21st over.

Pun and Pariyar hustled for each other, pressured the fielders, dived, scrambled and did everything they could to win the game for Nepal. They did so much no one had to do anything else.

Sagar Pun and Aakash Pariyar

The Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal presented the ACC U-17 Elite Cup to winning captain Prithu Baskota in front of the thousands staying on for the prize-giving, the match being carried live from the start by Nepal TV 2. Cricket’s big in Nepal and it’s going to get even bigger and better.

ACC U-17 Elite Cup
Final: Nepal v Malaysia at Tribhuvan University
Malaysia won the toss and chose to bat
Malaysia: 124 off 37.1 overs (Z.Norazmi 31, K.Goonasageran 28; P.Baskota 3-16)
Nepal: 125 for 0 after 23.3 overs (S.Pun 65*, A.Pariyar 53*)
Man of the Match: Sagar Pun (Nepal)


ACC U-17 Elite Cup 2009

Filed February 12, 2009