United Arab Emirates 277 for 4 (Ashfaq 114, Mustafa 51) beat Nepal 270 for 8 (Khadka 112*, Hayat 4-53) by seven runs
The Cardiac Kids from Nepal nearly claimed a fourth final-over win, driven by captain Paras Khadka‘s second List A ton, but Ashfaq Ahmed‘s first-innings 114 proved decisive as UAE held on for a seven-run win to claim the WCL Division Two title at the Wanderers Sports Club.
For Ashfaq, it was his maiden List A ton, following in the footsteps of Rameez Shahzad who achieved the same feat last month against Scotland, as UAE continue to lessen their dependency on Shaiman Anwar for match-winning totals.
Ashfaq and Rohan Mustafa dominated the opening passage of play, after UAE chose to bat first, putting on a 109-run stand in 24 overs that set up a commanding total. Ashfaq eventually fell to Sandeep Lamichhane in the 43rd over, before Rameez made an unbeaten 41 off 46 balls, and Shaiman offered a quick burst with 40 off 24, including an exquisite extra cover drive for six.
Nepal got off to their best start of the tournament in reply, as Gyanendra Malla and Dilip Nath put on 38 for the first wicket, before Nath was bowled by Rohan Mustafa, attempting an ungainly slog. Two balls later, Malla fell to a carbon copy of his dismissal from a day earlier, caught lacing a pull to short midwicket off the medium pacer Amir Hayat, who ended with four wickets.
Khadka and Dipendra Airee added 73 for the third wicket, though it was aided by some sloppy keeping from Ghulam Shabber, who dropped Airee twice and also fluffed a regulation stumping chance off Khadka on 22, when the Nepal captain charged at legspinner Imran Haider and was beaten by a googly.
Haider eventually claimed Airee for 35, and for a while, it appeared as though the missed chance of Khadka would result in another final-over finish. Even though he continued to lose partners, Khadka chanced his hand with some streaky shots, as the ball continued to evade fielders. However, Khadka made plenty of sweet contact as well, cracking eight sixes in his innings.
With 34 needed off three overs, and Khadka on 89, UAE’s bowlers rose to the occasion with spectacular death bowling. Whether it was Mohammad Naveed’s medium pace in the 48th, or Mustafa’s offspin in the 49th, UAE’s bowlers restricted Khadka with pinpoint accuracy on a yorker length, as Nepal entered the final over needing 28. Two singles off the first two balls clinched victory mathematically for UAE, before Khadka struck a six off the fourth ball to bring up his ton off 100 balls. He clattered two more, over extra cover and long-off, to eclipse Ashfaq by four runs as the tournament’s leading scorer with 241 runs.
Ashfaq was named Man of the Match for his century. The Player-of-the-Tournament award was claimed by Lamichhane, whose 17 scalps tied him with Oman’s Bilal Khan for most wickets, although Lamichhane’s tailend contributions with the bat, holding up one end in a pair of match-winning last-wicket stands, were arguably just as valuable. Mustafa was his nearest competitor for the award, finishing third with 13 wickets while also scoring 183 runs – eighth in the aggregate.
The win for UAE means they join Group A at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, where they’ll be alongside West Indies, Ireland, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea. As the WCL Division Two runner-up, Nepal go into Group B with Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Hong Kong.