Skipper Khadka fit to play for crunch Kuwait gameNepal must win the last two matches to grab a spot in the Global Qualifiers.
National cricket team skipper Paras Khadka said on Friday he is fit and ready to play the remaining two crucial matches of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Qualifiers in Singapore.
Khadka, who had suffered a back spasm while playing against Qatar in the first match on July 23, missed the second game against Malaysia on Wednesday. After crashing to stunning four-wicket defeat at the hands of Qatar, the highest ranked team of the tournament Nepal vaulted back into contention beating Malaysia by seven wickets.
Despite losing the first match against Qatar, Nepal no more need to depend on results from other matches to finish at the top of the table. They only require beating Kuwait and Singapore— on Sunday— in the last two games. Only the team finishing at the top after single round robin league is guaranteed a place in the Global Qualifiers for the 2020 ICC Twenty20 World Cup scheduled for October and November in the United Arab Emirates.
Kuwait had opened their tournament campaign with a 42-run loss to Malaysia. Their second match against Singapore was washed out due to rain but they bounced back on Friday edging Qatar by 10 runs in a run-glut. They currently sit at the second spot with three points from three games, two behind Singapore who routed Malaysia by eight wickets, also on Friday.
The Qatar defeat might have made equation easy for Nepal but the way Kuwait batted on Friday has certainly made Nepal circumspect. Kuwait posted a tournament-high 197-7 before stopping Qatar on 187-5. Nepal, on the other hand, have not looked convincing with the bat and needed a record 20-ball half century from stand-in captain Gyanendra Malla to beat Malaysia in the match reduced to nine overs.
The bright prospect for Nepal is the return of Khadka, who has been capable of thwarting any opponent he faces. Khadka and Malla had forged a 49-run opening wicket stand against Qatar with the skipper making a 17-ball 28 but after his departure Nepal caved in and were bundled out for a paltry 122 in 20 overs. The team will once again look up to its best batsman for crucial matches.
Khadka knows his team is not in the position to commit any error. “We have no other choice after losing the first game. We had to come back strong and it was good to see the boys doing really well against Malaysia. We want to forget what happened against Qatar and focus on winning the last two matches,” Khadka told media during a training session at the Indian Association ground on Friday.
The Nepali captain has fond memories against Kuwait having slammed his first ever career century against the gulf country during the 2012 ACC Trophy Elite but Nepal ended up losing the game. Since then, Nepal have made giant leap in world cricket ladder and now are the One-Day International nation. He, however, doesn’t want to get complacent.
“Given the small ground and the playing conditions here, nothing is going to be easy against any team. It’s very important that we play our best game. I guess anything around 170 to 180 will be a good total for us and if we bowl first, we need to make sure we restrict them below 150. We have assessed a few of their players and now it’s all about execution of the plan,” the captain added.
The return of Khadka might mean the exit of Pradeep Airee who had opened the batting with Malla and played a role of an anchor making 12 runs in a 66-run record first wicket stand. But with Khadka now shaping up as a Twenty20 opener and Malla finding back form, the captain and vice-captain are prime starters against Kuwait.
Karan KC and Sompal Kami will be leading the pace attack with Abinash Bohora playing as death over specialist. Ace spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and veteran Basanta Regmi will lead the spin department as Rohit Kumar Paudel and Pradeep Airee are fighting for the only remaining spot. Sharad Vesawkar, Dipendra Singh Airee and Binod Bhandari will form a strong middle order.
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