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All round Maqsood sinks Nepal in a closely contested Houston encounter

Nepal lost their opening encounter of their ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 Tri-Series in the USA tour going down to table toppers Oman by 13 runs at the Moosa Cricket Stadium, Houston, Texas on Thursday.

It was Oman who marked a remarkable comeback through their captain Zeeshan Maqsood who not only bailed out his team with a hundred but also picked up three crucial wickets to leave Nepal reeling in an ordinary chase.

Aarif Sheikh kept Nepal on chase with his second ODI half century only to fail in the last hurdle when Bilal Khan defended 14 runs in the final over with the middle order batsman taking the strike.

Bilal bowled three consecutive dot balls before trapping Aarif leg before wicket in the fourth, bundling out Nepal for just 198. Aarif brought his ODI best score of 66 from 79 balls with six boundaries.

Earlier, Maqsood slammed an unbeaten 104 off 126 balls leading his side to 211-8 on a flat batting surface. Nepal didn’t have the best of the start losing comeback opener Subash Khakurel (three) with just seven runs on the board.

Dev Khanal and Sunil Dhamala then shared 33 runs for the second wicket before the latter was bowled for 12 by Maqsood. With Dev and new batsman Rohit Kumar Paudel playing fluently, Nepal remained on track for the chase but lost the momentum after both batsmen fell in a space of eight runs.

Rohit scored a 17-ball 20 and Dev made 34 off 53 with five hits to the fence. The score read 104-5 after middle order mainstay Dipendra Singh Airee was undone by a brilliant diving catch from Maqsood at point.

Aarif and Binod Bhandari shared 37 runs for the sixth wicket but the latter’s sluggish innings exerted tremedous pressure in the chase. Bhandari scored a boundaryless 14 off 46.

Nepal continued to struggle as Oman tightened the screws through Zeeshan and Khawar Ali who returned the figures of 3-47 from 10 overs. Ayaan Khan also bowled tightly while taking 1-20 from seven overs.

Oman’s total was built around Maqsood who kept Nepali bowlers at bay with his second ODI century, the first came against the USA in February, 2020 in Kathmandu.

He shared 60 runs for the sixth wicket with Khawar (30), 32 for the seventh with Suraj Kumar (12) and 28 for the eighth with Fayaz Butt (nine). Karan KC returned his career best figures of 5-38 from 10 overs and Sandeep Lamichhane took 2-44 from 10 overs.

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