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Nepal registered a hard-fought three-wicket victory over Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the Triangular Series of the ICC World Cup League 2 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday. The victory marked the second time in a row that Nepal defeated PNG in the league, providing a significant boost to their ambition of finishing in the top-five position in the seven-team contest. The top-five teams in the league are supposed to retain One-Day International (ODI) status for the next four years, which is due to end in July.

Nepal’s 21-year-old opener, Aasif Sheikh, shone with the bat, holding his nerve to score an unbeaten 86 runs and single-handedly lead Nepal’s fightback after their batting line-up crumbled. He also shared a record 77-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Sandeep Lamichhane, who remained unbeaten on 35 runs, the second-highest score of the team. Lamichhane’s contribution was crucial to the team’s success, as he gave much-needed support to Sheikh during the run chase.

PNG batted first after winning the toss and were bowled out for 179 runs with four balls to spare. Nepal trailed by 105-7 after losing three wickets in quick succession in their run chase. However, the partnership of Lamichhane and Sheikh proved crucial for Nepal, as they guided their team to victory with two overs to spare, with Lamichhane hitting the winning boundary.

Prior to losing to UAE by 68 runs on Thursday, Nepal defeated PNG by four wickets on Monday. On Monday, Nepal will play its final game in the series against the UAE, the venue. If Nepal wins three of their remaining five games, a top-five league finish is assured. PNG is currently languishing at the bottom of the table with seven points from the same number of games, while Nepal is currently in sixth place with 30 points from 31 games.

Top-order batters for Nepal were lost during the run chase, including opener Kushal Bhrutel, who was out for a duck, former captain Gyanendra Malla, who scored six runs, Bhim Sharki, who scored eight runs, captain Rohit Paudel, and Aarif Sheikh, who scored one run each. The following batter from Nepal, Dipendra Singh Airee, was also out on eight runs. The other Nepali batter to reach double digits before being bowled by Sese Bau was Kushal Malla, who came to bat at number eight and scored 23 runs off of 26. The bowler of choice for PNG, Assad Vala, claimed three wickets in his 10-over spell. While keeping two debut overs, he gave up 21 runs. Sese Bau and Semo Kamea split two scalps each.

Tony Ura of PNG batted first and achieved the highest total of the innings with 39 runs off 51, which included two home runs to the fences and a six. Kiplin Doriga and Ura shared a 42-run starting stand before Ura was dismissed as the third wicket after being caught and bowled by medium-pacer Sompal Kami. Doriga hit three boundaries before being caught leg before by Lamichhane in the eleventh over.

In conclusion, Nepal’s victory over Papua New Guinea in the Triangular Series of the ICC World Cup League 2 significantly boosts their ambition of finishing in the top five positions of the league and retaining their One-Day International status. Aasif Sheikh’s unbeaten 86-run knock and Sandeep Lamichhane’s 35 not out were crucial in Nepal’s hard-fought three-wicket victory.