KATHMANDU - Nepal earned a ticket to the inaugural ACC Championship with a seven-wicket win over Hong Kong in the ACC Premier League match at the Bayuemas Oval ground in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Monday.
In a rain-interrupted match, Nepal overshadowed a superb century from opener Irfan Ahmed to restrict Hong Kong for 181 runs in 41.5 overs.
Nepal were cruising along nicely at 121-3 in 27.4 overs with skipper Paras Khadka batting on 29 and Sharad Vesawkar on seven before rain intervened to put the proceedings on hold for almost an hour.
As the game resumed Nepal got the revised target of 144 runs for victory from 38 overs. Khadka and Vesawkar strolled over the line, scoring 147-3 in 34.1 overs. Khadka remained unbeaten on 43 off 52 balls and Vesawkar scored 33-ball 19 not out.
As the top four teams from the tournament qualify for December 7-14 ACC Championship, Nepal confirmed their participation in the two-day tournament along with table toppers Afghanistan and third-placed Oman.
All three teams have six points each from four matches with only marginal net run-rate separating them from each other.
Nepal can clinch the ACC Premier League title with victory over Afghanistan on Wednesday provided Oman lose to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their last game. The UAE (4 points) and Malaysia (2) are still in the hunt for the fourth and last available berth for ACC Championship. Malaysia will be up against winless Hong Kong, the team that recently earned the ODI status for four years.
Hong Kong got off to a flying start when Ahmed and Waqas Barkat added 71 runs for the first wicket in 12 overs. Basanta Regmi broke the stand removing Barkat (16) and the left-arm spinner followed the wicket with another scalp of Nizakat Khan (17).
Aarif Sheikh, making debut for senior national team, struck twice in two consecutive balls before Ankur Sharma (2) was run out as Hong Kong were tottering at 117-5 in 24 overs.
Ahmed, who did the bulk of scoring for Hong Kong, added 52 runs for the sixth wicket with Roy Lamsam (18) but Som Pal Kami polished off the Hong Kong tail taking two wickets each in his two consecutive overs. Ahmed completed his century with a single off Kami and was the last man to be out, dismissed by Regmi after hitting the bowler for a six. Hong Kong lost their last five wickets for just 12 runs. Ahmed made 106 off 115 with 10 fours and three sixes. Kami finished with 4-34 and Regmi took 3-42.
Nepal took a cautious approach to their run chase when openers Subash Khakurel (16) and Naresh Budhayer added 38 runs for the first wicket before Tanwir Afzal removed the former. Gyanendra Malla made 15 off 10 balls but fell prey to Ahmed at 56-2.
Budhayer and Khadka added 53 runs for the third wicket and once again Ahmed broke the stand by removing the former. Budhayer scored 41 off 86 with six fours for his highest score with the senior team.
Khadka and Vesawkar then completed the run chase after resumption. Khadka hit six fours and Vesawkar stroked three boundaries. Ahmed was adjudged man-of-the-match.
In other matches, Afghanistan defeated Oman by five wickets and UAE beat Malaysia by six wickets.