UAE win has Nepal dreaming of World Cup berthThe Rhinos claimed 11 ODI victories in the 12 matches they played in the past month and wrapped up the League 2 campaign third on the table.
The Nepali national men’s cricket team on Thursday completed a miraculous comeback, winning 11 of the 12 matches played in a span of a month, to accomplish their mission of earning an automatic berth at the World Cup Qualifiers. On the day, they edged the United Arab Emirates by nine runs on D/L method at TU ground in Kirtipur.
Nepal needed to win the match to secure a third place finish in the last tri-series game of ICC World Cup League 2 and achieved their goal on the back of what was a collective batting effort. Only the top three finishers of League 2 get direct entry to the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers while the bottom four need to go through World Cup Qualifiers playoffs.
On Thursday, opting to bat first, the UAE posted 310-6, the highest total at the TU ground, after one of the fastest ODI centuries from middle order batter Asif Khan. Chasing the challenging target in front of a roaring home crowd, four batters—opener Kushal Bhurtel, Bhim Sharki, Aarif Sheikh and Gulshan Jha—slammed half centuries each as they reached 269-6 in 44 overs before the match was called off owing to bad light as the home team won the game by nine runs.
With the result, Nepal wrapped up League 2 in third position on 40 points, replacing Namibia, which dropped to fourth, with 39 points from equal 36 games. Scotland finished top of the table with 50 points, while Oman in second position with 44 points. Until mid-February this year, Nepal were sixth in the seven-team standings, with just 18 points from 24 games.
Nepal also retained ODI status on Thursday by beating the same opponents to confirm top-five finish, one of the requirements to retain ODI status for the next four years that Nepal earned for the first time in 2018.
Nepal will now vie in the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe from June 18 to July 9 featuring 10 teams including top three teams of League 2—Scotland, Oman and Nepal—apart from hosts Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. They will be joined by top two teams of the World Cup Qualifiers playoffs along with one among West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Ireland.
The top two of the 10 teams will book tickets to the ODI World Cup scheduled for October and November in India.
“We had visualised this day 12 matches ago—with the goal of first retaining the ODI status and then making it to the World Cup Qualifiers—and everything went well,” Nepal’s captain Rohit Paudel said after the game.
Backed by a jam-packed home crowd, Nepal were off to a shaky run chase , losing opener Aasif Sheikh for a duck, Kushal Malla for five runs and captain Rohit Paudel for 16 with 37-3 on board. The other opener Kushal Bhurtel was the fourth wicket, dismissed after scoring 50 runs off 35 deliveries. He hit three boundaries and three sixes before he was caught by Ashwanth Valthapa off Junaid Siddique’s delivery as the score read 98-4.
“The game was like a grand final and tough. The UAE are strong opponents and they played well. Our players also batted well. Despite losing early wickets we were calm in the dugout and believed we could chase the target as we had done so in the past,” Paudel added, crediting the victory to newly appointed coach Monty Desai and teammates.
But the next three batters—Bhim Sharki, Aarif Sheikh and Gulshan Jha—all cracked half centuries to get Nepal’s chase back on track. Sharki hit 76-ball 67 and also shared an 83-run stand for the fifth wicket with Sheikh. He hit nine boundaries before falling LBW to Junaid Siddique.
Sheikh then hit a 62-ball 52 that included two hits to boundaries before Zahoor Khan made him caught by Vriitya Aravind at 225-6 in the 40th over.
Allrounder Gulshan Jha played an unbeaten 50-run knock off 48 deliveries. He slammed four boundaries and two sixes along with a vital 20 runs in the 42nd over. He hit captain Muhammad Waseem for a six in the third delivery of the 42nd over and three boundaries in a row in the next three balls. Dipendra Singh Airee remained unbeaten on 10 runs.
Coach Desai, who officially took over as the coach of the Nepali senior men’s team on February 6, said sincerity of all members was key to the team’s dream run.
“I have done nothing much rather than trying to play my role sincerely,” Desai said. “All are trying to play their role sincerely and they have been working very hard and honestly. We always knew that we could chase 270/280, as we have done it so many times. Today we were working into an unknown chase and we were clear that if we bat through 50 overs we have enough ability, skills and players to chase those runs.”
Siddique was the pick of the UAE bowlers, claiming three wickets in his 10-over spell while giving away 51 runs. Aayan Afzal Khan claimed two scalps in his seven-over bowling conceding 31 runs.
Earlier, the UAE’s Khan, who came at number seven, hit an unbeaten 42-ball 101, reaching his career’s maiden century off just 41 deliveries. Aravind, dismissed in the last delivery of the innings, was six runs short of century while opener Waseem contributed 63 runs.
Khan also became the fourth-fastest century scorer in ODI—after AB de Villiers (31 balls), Corey Anderson (36 balls) and Sahid Afridi (37 balls)—and the fastest Associate cricketer to achieve the feat. He eclipsed the record of captain Muhammad Waseem’s 60-ball 100 against Papua New Guinea (PNG) in their six-wicket victory on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old struck four hits to the fences and 11 sixes including four in a row off Sandeep Lamichhane in the penultimate over. He also shared a 135-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Vriitya Aravind before the latter was dismissed in the last ball of the innings.
Aravind departed on 94 runs off 138. He made four hits to the boundary and two big sixes before medium pacer Sompal Kami had him caught by Dipendra Singh Airee.
Though the UAE lost opener Aryan Lakra for a cheap six, bowled by Lalit Rajbanshi, his captain Waseem combined with Aravind to give a strong start putting up a 79-run partnership. Waseem contributed 63 runs off 49, studded with two hits to the boundaries and six sixes. Lamichhane trapped him leg before in the 17th over with 98-2 on board.
Rohan Mustafa scored 32-ball 20 before he fell LBW to Dipendra Singh Airee.
Allrounder Dipendra Singh Airee claimed two scalps in his eight-over spell conceding 19 runs. He bowled two maidens. Sandeep Lamichhane, Sompal Kami and Lalit Rajbanshi grabbed a wicket apiece. Lamichhane, however, was expensive, conceding 80 runs in his 10-over bowling.