Nepal withstood a furious onslaught by Malaysia for a six-run victory in an entertaining encounter to a seal a 2-0 win in the Twenty20 International (T20I) bilateral series at the Kinrara Oval on Sunday.
Despite posting an imposing total of 173 runs for six, Nepal had to contend with a determined run chase by Malaysia before restricting the hosts to 167 for seven in 20 overs.
The win followed a seven-wicket success on Saturday for World No 11 Nepal, the world’s best non-Test team in the T20I rankings, as both sides geared up for the ICC T20 World Cup Asian Regional Finals qualifying tournament in Singapore beginning July 22.
The batting performance should provide 35th-ranked Malaysia with a measure of confidence when they take on Nepal, Singapore, Kuwait and Qatar – all placed higher in the T20 rankings – in the qualifiers.
Looking to beat Nepal for the first time in 10 years, openers Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak (50) and Virandeep Singh (23) put on a 75-run stand to lay the foundation for a run chase which had Nepal on tenterhooks right to the end.
“We improved our batting performance today with Syed Aziz getting a fifty while the others down the order also stepped up when we needed runs,” said Malaysia captain Ahmad Faiz Mohammed Noor.
“The plan was to get to close to 180 but we slowed a little in the middle overs and that took some of the momentum away, making it a drag in the last five overs.”
With Virandeep and Syed Aziz regularly opening for Kuala Lumpur at domestic level, Faiz said the idea was to see if the pair could carry that chemistry to the international arena.
Virandeep hit a six and two fours from 23 balls a day after scoring 57 while Syed Aziz’s 50 came off 37 deliveries, including a six and seven fours, only to be dismissed by Sompal Kami one ball after reaching his half-century, which in turn came just two balls after Virandeep’s exit.
Syed Aziz, 20, also took one wicket for 24 before notching his third fifty in T20Is in six matches after scores of 57 and 53 against Thailand and Maldives respectively in the Tri-Series last month.
Sandeep Lamichhane picked up the wickets of Faiz (17) and Shafiq Sharif (10) while Kami accounted for the returning Anwar Arudin (7) to leave Malaysia behind the run-rate at 115-5 after 16 overs.
It was left to Aminuddin Ramli and Syahadat Ramli to turn on the after-burners by going for boundaries with the former hitting three sixes off 11 balls to score 24 runs while the latter ended unbeaten on 21 off 11.
Malaysia went into the final over needing 14 runs for a first win over Nepal since 2009 but after Fitri Sham’s leg bye for a single, Syahadat sandwiched three dots balls off Abinash Bohara between a two and a four to bring a valiant but unsuccessful chase to an end.
Earlier, Fitri (3-26) became the first Malaysian bowler since Anwar Rahman in a 50-over Asia Cup qualifier last September to claim the scalp of Nepal captain Paras Khadka, who had stayed unbeaten in his last two outings against Malaysia while scoring half-centuries.
Fitri had dismissed Gyanendra Malla just one ball earlier before Khadka’s dismissal left Nepal at 42-3 but Sharad Vesawkar (40 off 28) and man-of-the-match Binod Bhandari (51 not out off 25) then pushed the total to a defendable 173.
“This performance augurs well for the tournament in Singapore and I’m sure the other teams will also have taken notice,” added Faiz. “We have our plan for the matches there because we need to consider the pitch condition as well and the relative strengths of the opponents.
“I’m happy with the individual performances today and the defeat was a narrow one. Of course we wanted to win but winning is a process.”
Nepal 173-6 in 20 overs (Binod Bhandari 51 not out, Sharad Vesawkar 40, Paras Khadka 23, Fitri Sham 3-26)
Malaysia 167-7 in 20 overs (Syed Aziz 50, Aminuddin Ramly 24, Virandeep Singh 23, Sompal Kami 2-25, Sandeep Lamichhane 2-38)
Result: Nepal won by 6 runs
Series: Nepal won 2-0