Skipper Binod Bhandari scored a swift century to guide his team to victory in the inaugural match of the fourth edition of Prime Minister Cup One Day Cricket Tournament 2077 at the TU Ground on Friday.
Bhandari, who promoted himself to No. 4 went on to score his maiden century in national cricket as Army registered a convincing 98 run win over Gandaki Province. Having elected to bat first, Army scored 287 runs for the loss of six wickets in the allotted 50 overs.
Bhandari completed his century off 73 balls after a six took him to 99. He then got to three figures with a single. His partnership with Lokesh Bam for the last 10 overs put Army in strong position. The two far westerners combined for a 103 run partnership for sixth wicket.
Bam was caught behind in the last ball of the innings but the damage was already done. He scored 42 runs off 30 balls with 3 fours and 2 maximums. Bhandari remained unbeaten in 111 off 76 balls with 9 fours and five sixes.
Wicketkeeper Raju Rijal and Harikrishna Jha started off the proceedings for Army with a slow start as they scored 63 runs for the first wicket in 18.4 overs. Jha scored 14 off 48 deliveries with just a single boundary before he holed out in midwicket.
Gandaki’s skipper Bipin Khatri got rid of both the openers when he trapped Rijal in the next over. Rijal scored 45 runs off 71 balls with 4 fours and a six. Having lost two wickets in a row, skipper Bhandari promoted himself up the order in a bid to hold the innings.
Former Nepal U-19 skipper Rohit Paudel was next to make way as he was caught in mid-off just after reaching double figures. Bhim Sharki’s stay in the middle was cut short as he sent a catch back to Bishal Paudel leaving army 111-4 towards midway of the innings.
Rajesh Pulami counter-attacked Gandaki’s bowlers as he built a steady 73 runs partnership with Bhandari. He hit 4 sixes in his 52-ball innings scoring 38 runs. Spinner duo Khatri and Poudel took 2 wickets each while pacers Deepesh Khatri and Chandra Poudel grabbed one each for Gandaki.
Gandaki approached chase with a defensive mindset as they aimed to play full 50 overs. Having made a positive start with their tactics, they were all out for 189 in 48 overs after part-time spinner Rajesh Pulami Magar cleaned up the tail with a five-for.
Gandaki had a bad start t start as Khatri (1) was trapped leg before against debutant Akash Chand in just the fourth over. The teenage duo of Arjun Kumal and Sameer Kandel then held the innings for the province team.
Kumal, aged 15 stayed at the crease and fend off the Army attack comprised of Chand, Bikram Sob, and Jitendra Mukhiya. He scored 36 runs off 54 balls with 6 boundaries before getting caught at mid-off. Part-timer Rohit Paudel ended 52 runs partnership for the second wicket.
Kandel then combined with wicketkeeper Deepak Dumre to steady the innings. Dumre scored 26 runs off 45 balls with 4 fours. They amassed 60 runs for the third wicket. Kandel went on to complete his half-century in 89 balls and gave away his wicket on the next ball. He scored 5 fours in 50 run innings.
The wicket kept falling as the part-timers Sharki and Pulami got their name amongst the wicket-takers. Avishek Thapa (9), Bishnu Pandey (12), Subash Bhandari (0), Amrit Gurung (1), Bishal Paudel (2), and Chandra Paudel (0) didn’t trouble the scorers. Skipper Bipin Khatri hit some big shots as he raced away to 37 off just 25 balls. He had 2 fours and 4 big hits in his inninngs.
Skipper Bhandari later clarified that he opted to rest his strike bowlers as Gandaki had a defensive mindset and aimed to last full overs. Sob, Chand, and Mukhiya combined bowled 15 overs while Pulami, Sharki, and Paudel shared 9 wickets between themselves.
Skipper Bhandari was not impressed with the quality of fielding but having played the game after a long break he was happy with overall performance. Having lost 3 key players ahead of the tournament, he was hopeful of making the finals with this crop of players.
Nepal APF Club will take on Province 1 in the second match of the tournament on Saturday.