Nepal play like champions but remain focused for Sunday’s deciderOnly a victory over Singapore will hand Nepal a spot in ICC Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifiers.
Nepal played like champions in their crushing seven-wicket victory over Kuwait but quickly switched their focus on Sunday's last ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Qualifiers against Singapore with nothing but only an outright victory confirming their progress ahead.
Having headed into the tournament as favourites to finish first for the only available spot for the 2020 ICC Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifiers, Nepal were shell-shocked after they were stunned by Qatar at the Indian Association Ground in Singapore on July 23. The team did bounce back with easy wins over Malaysia and Kuwait leaving them with just one win away from grabbing the Global Qualifiers' spot.
Singapore currently sit at the top of the table with five points from three games — one ahead of Nepal. Even a rain wash-out would benefit them robbing Nepal of the Qualifiers' spot. The situation is similar to what Nepal have faced multiple times in their progress in world cricket since 2013 where they either made it to big tournaments at last moment or needed decimal of net run rate.
Nepal's Sharad Vesawkar was hardly worried with the tricky situation. "We are habituated to qualification with the slimmest of the margin or the last moment. Its going to be a just another match when we play Singapore on Sunday," said Vesawkar who forged a match-winning 78-run partnership for the second wicket with skipper Paras Khadka while steering Nepal to 143-3 in 15.5 overs in chase of Kuwait's 141-9.
"I think the circumstances like these test our character. Earning something in the most difficult way gives you a great pleasure than achieving things rather easily," added the middle order batsman after scoring a 30-ball 38 not out on Saturday hitting four boundaries and the match winning six.
Sharad played role of a perfect anchor with Khadka firing in all cylinders after the captain began the chase with a quickfire 44-run partnership in 3.5 overs with his opening pair Gyanendra Malla (19 off 13). Khadka's innings was the cornerstone in Nepal's victory as the skipper batted fluently smashing a 42-ball 68 that included 11 boundaries and a six.
Despite giving yet another man-of-the-match performance, Khadka chose to remain modest backing his entire squad for Sunday's crucial encounter. "Except for the last two overs today, we didn't put our foot wrong. Everyone did well but this game is done now and tomorrow (Sunday) is going to be the ultimate day for us. We have to continue the same momentum that we carried in our last two matches," Khadka told the Nepali media in Singapore.
"Singapore are playing good cricket because they have won both their matches pretty convincingly. There is no room for complacency for us as well. I think it is going to be a good contest. There are a lot of things at stake because its about qualifying for the World Cup Qualifiers and the team which handles the pressure will prevail," the captain added.
Nepal would like veteran spinner Basanta Regmi and young leggie Sandeep Lamichhane carry their form to Sunday's game as the duo not only stemmed the run-flow by striking regularly. Regmi used all his experience returning the figures of 3-20 from four overs and Lamichhane took 3-21. While finding form was equally important for Regmi, the left arm slow bowler doesn't want his team to exert pressure on itself.
Against Kuwait, it was a must-win situation for us and everyone were sticking to their plans. If we play it as a final, we will end up putting ourselves under pressure. We have to treat it as just another match where we give our best performance and contribute to the team individually," the veteran said.
Nepal are primed to go with the same squad after they dropped opener Pradeep Airee who made way for Khadka as the skipper was rested for the match against Malaysia because of a back spasm.