ICC Men’s T20 WC Qualifier A: Nepal, Canada emerge victorious in opening matches

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Nepal and Canada got off to an impressive start in their respective opening Group A matches of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, here on Friday.

Nepal got the better of hosts Oman in a low-scoring game at the Oman Academy 1 ground while Canada beat Philippines in another clash of the tournament.

Canada’s Matthew Spoors stroked a 66-ball century (108 not out) and shared a 149-run opening wicket stand with Rayyan Pathan, who hit a 44-ball 73, to lead their side to an imposing 216 runs for the loss of one wicket. Captain Navneet Dhaliwal stayed unbeaten on an 11-ball 26 that was studded with three maximums as they challenged Philippines who are making their debut at the global qualifiers.

Chasing a huge total, Philippines could only score 98 for five to give Canada a huge 118-run win and a boost to their net run-rate (NRR).

In the second match of the day, bowlers had a field day as a low-scoring match between hosts Oman and Nepal. Defending a total of 117, Nepal bowlers, led by their skipper and leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, had the hosts batters at sea as they collapsed to 78 in 17 overs.

Kamal Airee was the most successful bowler with three for 15 while Lamichhane picked up two for 20 and was ably supported by off-spinner Dipendra Airee, who claimed two for 15.

Oman lost opener Kashyapkumar Prajapati and Ayaan Khan in two overs to leave the hosts at 7-2. Jatinder Singh and Khawar Ali tried to rebuild the innings but in the sixth over, a brilliant piece of fielding at mid-off by Dipendra Airee saw Jatinder run out while trying to steal a single.

The run out of Jatinder began an exodus as Oman lost four wickets in four overs as Lamichhane castled Khawar Ali in the seventh over and Dipendra Airee sent back skipper Maqsood in the next over. There was no stopping the Nepal bowlers in the ninth over, Shoaib Khan was caught behind by Aasif Sheikh off Abinash Bohara.

Syed Aamir Kaleem and wicketkeeper Naseem Khushi stopped the slide and negotiated the middle overs till the 13th over when Khushi, who had hit two sixes in a span of four balls off Lamichhane, fell off the penultimate ball of the over.

The wicket ended a 31-run seventh-wicket stand with Khushi ending as the hosts’ top scorer with 24 off 18. Kaleem was leg before to Dipendra in the next over and Kamal Airee, a cousin of Dipendra, cleaned up the last two batsmen in the 17th for a solid win.

Earlier, Oman won the toss and elected to bowl and the decision by skipper Zeeshan Maqsood was vindicated as pacer Bilal Khan got them two early wickets in his opening two-over spell. He sent Aasif Sheikh back to the pavilion off the last ball of his first over and then had Kushan Bhurtel dismissed in his second over to leave Nepal struggling at 12-2 in three overs.

The experienced duo of Gyanendra Malla and Dipendra Airee then pushed the total to 33 before Gyanendra was castled by Fayyaz Butt in the seventh over. Dipendra, too departed soon, and it was left for Lokendra Bam and Aarif Sheikh to stitch together a crucial stand.

However, Oman’s leg-spinner Khawar Ali ended that partnership when Bam was caught by Kaleemullah in the 14th over. Aarif, who was later named the player of the match, stood firm and played a patient knock of 38 off 37 to steer his side past 100. Lamichhane’s seven-ball quick fire 16, which included a six and a boundary, helped the team reach 117, a total they defended with a splendid display of bowling.

Meanwhile, on Oman Academy 2 ground, it was Canada’s Matthew Spoors who hogged the limelight with his maiden unbeaten century which was studded with 14 hits to the boundary and three maximums against the Philippines.

Put to bat first, Canadian openers – Spoors and Rayyan Pathan raced to 149 in 15.1 overs up until Pathan was caught off Huzaifa Mohammed. Chasing a total of 217 to win was never going to be easy and Philippines managed to bat through the 20 overs for a 98 for the loss of five wickets.

Daniel Smith top-scored with 35 and Kapil Kumar made 23. Saad bin Zafar and Kaleem Sana claimed two wickets apiece in their convincing win.

On Saturday, Philippines will take on Nepal at Oman Academy 2 while Canada to play against Oman at Oman Academy 1.

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