VIRANDEEP Singh emerged as the unlikely hero after his smashing half-century carried Malaysia to a historic one-wicket triumph over Nepal for the ACC Under-16 Elite Cup in the final at the Kinrara Oval yesterday.
Still only 13 and standing only 1.50 metres, the First Former of Victoria Institution belied his age to carry his bat through the Malaysian innings to rescue the hosts from a seemingly impossible situation by stroking seven fours, including one for the winning runs, in his unbeaten 54 off 115 balls.
With his elder brother Pavandeep at the other end, a calm and collected Virandeep flicked fast bowler Kalicharan Vadav's first ball of the final over to fine leg and sparked wild celebrations on the field and at the pavilion as Malaysia reach 120-9 in reply to Nepal's 117 all out in 33 overs.
"I feel very happy," said Virandeep after winning Man-of-the-Final honours for his mature display. "I was nervous at first but all I was thinking was to stay at the crease.
"I stayed cool and just wanted to score some runs. I was not thinking about anything in that final over. I just wanted to hit the ball."
The Malaysian bowlers, eager to avenge a one-wicket defeat in group play after Nepal put on 52 runs for the last wicket, ensured there was no repeat by dismissing the 2010 runners-up for 117.
Pavandeep dismissed opener Dipendra Chand for 21 before having Amin Nuepane out leg-before to reduce Nepal to 64-6 while Shankar Goonasegaran (3-27) accounted for the top-order to give Malaysia a fighting chance.
The batsmen were doing fine despite Nalin De Silve exiting early leg-before without scoring with Virandeep and Vinay Singh (22) putting on 47 runs for the second wicket but once the latter was caught behind, wickets tumbled regularly.
At 87-7 in the 34th over, victory hopes appeared over until Virandeep picked up the pace again and brought up his 50 off 115 balls with a single in the 38rh over.
That over proved critical as Nepal's Neupane conceded eight runs in his only over while Virandeep survived a run-out chance when the fielders fumbled the ball to allow Amin Amanda Nazrul Shah Abdul Karia to nick two runs.
The game turned into Malaysia's favour and after Amin (four) was run out, Virandeep faced two more balls before hitting the winning runs which gave Malaysia a first win over Nepal at any level of cricket and a first Asian Cricket Council age-group trophy.