In what is effectively a semifinal, Nepal take on Canada today at the Wanderers Cricket Ground in Windhoek in the last round of the ICC World Cricket League Division Two. Both teams are currently level on six points from four games, and today’s winner will be ensured of a top-two finish and as a result, a berth in the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next month.
Nepal can take inspiration from their last List A meeting with Canada, which incidentally was at the same ground, in the third round of the 2015 WCL Division Two. The game was a heavily one-sided affair in favour of Nepal, who were bolstered by a brilliant return of 5/26 from pace bowler Karan KC. These were then the best bowling figures for Nepal in List A cricket.
Karan began by striking twice in as many balls in his second over, sending Rizwan Cheema and Srimantha Wijeratne back to reduce Canada to 15/3. He proceeded to add two more wickets in his first spell of seven overs, which was instrumental in having Canada reeling at 22/5 in the 12th over, and later took his fifth wicket in his second spell to make the score 85/8.
Nepal eventually faced a target of only 115, which they achieved in the 23rd over to win by seven wickets, but not before losing their openers for no score in the first ten balls of the innings. Gyanendra Malla, who remained unbeaten on 32, and captain Paras Khadka, who was named man of the match for his blistering 78-ball 77, shared a third-wicket stand of 114 to seal the deal.
Nepalese captain Paras Khadka smashed 77 from 78 balls when his team last faced Canada on the List A scene, at the Wanderers in Windhoek in 2014-15 (source – ICC)
While Nepal could not finish in the top two in 2015 (they finished fourth), they cannot afford the same this time if they are to reach the World Cup Qualifier. It would not be an understatement to say that had it not been for their excellent bowling throughout the tourney, Nepal would have probably found themselves out of contention by now, given their repeated capitulations with the bat.
In their first game against Namibia last week, Nepal dug themselves into hole by slumping to 56/6 in their chase of 138, and it took a tenth-wicket stand of 18 to eke out a last-over victory. Similarly, they made a meal of their innings in the must-win clash against Kenya, where they fell to 82/5 before somehow crossing over the line, winning by three wickets off the final ball.
Even as Sandeep Lamichhane has run riot with the ball, having taken a chart-topping 16 wickets thus far, only one Nepalese batsman – Khadka – has crossed the 100-run mark. Nepal’s only fifty has also been scored by Khadka, and this over-dependence on the skipper is hardly encouraging as the game against Canada, who have two batsmen among the top three run-scorers, gets underway.
It remains to be seen whether Nepal have it in them to produce another tidy bowling effort, so as to neutralise a potential batting implosion, against Canada, who have arguably been the best side in the competition. Khadka’s men would do well to revive the memories of their facile win over Canada in 2015 as they take the field at the Wanderers, with a few million hopes riding on them.