In Focus, National

Nepal vs. Afghanistan: Preview

Nepal will be looking to bounce back after the embarrassing defeat at the hands of The Netherlands as they take of heavyweights Afghanistan in the ICC T20 Qualifiers. Still a budding rivalry in the associate world, for millions of fans from Afghanistan and Nepal today’s match is Associate Cricket’s equivalent of Indo-Pak rivalry.

Afghanistan was the one Nepali Team desperate to beat before the tournament started. Pubudu Dassanayeke had expressed that the team wanted to stamp their authority at top associate level beating teams like Afghanistan before leaving for UAE.

Big Picture
After Nepal’s to the Netherlands and Kenya’s big win over Bermuda, Nepal has dropped to 4th position in the group B  table. Afghanistan on the other hand are second with 4 wins-Netherland with same number of wins but better NRR tops Group B. A win against Afghanistan will bolster Nepal’s hope of finishing in the pole position. The win is also important for Nepal because they would not want to face Bermuda, the last group match for Nepal, in a must win set up.

Nepal team has looked unconvincing and inconsistent with bat and ball throughout the tournament. In the two defeats the batting was Nepal’s Achilles heels, which Scotland and Netherland aimed with archer’s perfection putting Nepal to bat first. Opening which was rock solid for Nepal in ACC T20 has let down the team in all 5 matches and Nepal is yet to win a match where Paras has not contributed that well with the bat.

Bowling has been patchy. Fast and Spin bowlers have never clicked together. Jitendra Mukhiya has been by far the most consistent bowler for Nepal. Basanta who completed 50 wickets in the match against Netherland seemed spineless in previous matches. Shakti is not giving away runs but taking wickets either.

Although there are good signs as too-Binod Bhandari and Subash Khakurel have been impressive with the bat for Nepal. Malla scored a steady 44 against Netherlands’ sturdy bowling attack, which should have given him lot of confidence. Amrit’s in-swingers and Jitendra’s Yorkers have troubled batsman in all matches.

Afghanistan hasn’t had a dream tournament either. Losing to Netherland they escaped with a narrow victory against PNG. Even Denmark gave them a scare yesterday and if it wasn’t for Najibullah’s four sixes in an over, Afghan might not have ran away with 2 wickets victory.

Both Nepal and Afghanistan have looked comfortable chasing in the tournament. With both captains looking to chase-toss will hugely affect the fate of the match.

Likely Changes- The way batting has been doing this tournament changes in the batting line up are due. Sharad Vesawkar, Airee, and Bhandari could bat up the order. Pradeep Airee did not have much to bat in the last two matches he played; he could open for the team.  Or it may be Mahesh Chhetri , who hasn’t played a single match in the tournament, or Anil Mandal could be tested with the opening as well.  Sagar Pun who has failed in 3 matches in a row with both bat and ball is likely to be dropped to bring in one of the openers.

Previous Encounters:

The senior side of Nepal and Afghanistan first met in 2004 where Nepal defeated Afghanistan by 47 runs. Since then the Afghan team has grown much stronger, making its way to 2015 Cricket World Cup, 2 T20 World Cups and the ODI status, Nepal on the other hand have just climbed World Cup Qualifiers.

The Afghan senior side since then hasn’t however changed much, Nawroz MangalKarim Saqiq, Mohammad Nabi, Shapoor Zadran played against Nepal in 2004 and still are in Afghan team.

Since 2004 Nepal has never defeated Afghanistan in any match. The reign for Afghanistan against Nepal started in 2007 ACC T20 Cup where they defeated Nepal by 6 wickets. The defeat in T20 was followed by 4 consecutive ODI defeats in Semi- Final of Division V in 2008, Third Place play off of ACC Elite Cup in 2008 again, Final of ACC Elite Cup in 2010 and narrow defeat of 3 runs in Emerging Teams Cup 2 months back.

These two teams have met three more times T20 matches after the first encounter in 2007 : First the in of ACC T20 Cup 2009 where Afghanistan comprehensively defeated Nepal by 9 wickets in the Semi- Final and then in the ICC World T20 Qualifier where Afghanistan defeated Nepal by 34 runs. A young Afghan side without most of its senior players  disappointed Nepal in home in the final of ACC T20 Cup this year, the latest of these  teams T20 date.

Afghanistan Squad:
Afghanistan is a perfect blend of youth and experience with every player tried and tested at various tournaments. Despite some initial hurdles they are now second in the group only behind Netherlands.

ICC T20 Qualifier 2012– Finished second losing the final to Ireland

ICC T20 Qualifier Qualification– Qualified as one of the top six teams of previous edition of the tournament. But were the winners of Regional Qualification defeating Nepal in the final of ACC T20 Cup


Mohammad Nabi (captain), Merwais Ashraf, Hamid Hassan, Amir Hamza Hotak, Afsar Khan, Nawroz Mangal, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Shahzad, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Karim Sadiq, Samiullah Shinwari, Najeebullah Zadran, Shapor Zadran, Dawlat Khan Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran

Afghanistan in ICC T20 Qualifier 2013
Form:  L W W W W
Most Runs : Mohammad Shahzad 150 runs in 5 innings with 1 half century;
Most Wickets: Samiullah Shenwari with 8 wickets followed by Shapoor Zadran with 6
Best Bowling Performance:  Samiullah Shenwari 3/20 against Bermuda
Best Batting Performance: 61 of 34 balls by Najibullah Zadran against Denmark
Highest Total : 171/6 against Scotland
Most Sixes : 11 sixes by Mohammad Nabi
Last Match : Defeated Denmark by 2 wickets!

Nepal Squad:

Paras Khadka (captain), Pradeep Airee, Binod Bhandari, Amrit Bhattarai, MaheshChhetri, Shakti Gauchan, Subash Khakurel, Avinash Karn, Gyanendra Malla, Anil Mandal, Jitendra Mukhiya, Sagar Pun, Basant Regmi, Sharad Vesawkar, Rahul Vishwakarma

Nepal in ICC T20 Qualifier 2013
Form: W W L W L
Most Runs: Paras Khadka 106 runs in 5 innings with 1 half Century
Most Wickets: Basanta Regmi with 8 wickets followed by Shakti Gauchan with 7
Best Bowling Performance: Basanta Regmi 3/12 against The Netherlands
Best Batting Performance: 54* Paras Khadka against Kenya
Highest Total: 186/4 in 19.4 overs against Kenya
Most Sixes: Paras Khada, 8 sixes
Semi Final: Lost to Netherlands by 5 wickets

Players to Watch Out
Paras Khadka has two back to back fifties against Afghanistan first in ACC T20 Cup and then Emerging Nations Cup.

Basanta Regmi bagged 5 wickets against Afghanistan in Emerging Teams Cup.

Gulbadin Naib: A proven all rounder at ACC T20 Cup, his all round performance in the final against Nepal lead young Afghan side to ACC Cup.

Mohammad Shahzad is one of the highest run getter in T20I, opening the batting he scores at brisk rate and take the game away from the opponent very quickly. He is the leading runs scorer for Afghanistan this tournament with 20, 42,18,60, 10 in last 5 matches at strike rate of over 145.

Mohammad Nabi is a match winner for Afghanistan side with both bat and ball. He has 5 wickets to his name in this tournament and 146 runs coming at strike rate of over 170. Nabi is also the highest wicket taker for Afghanistan in T20 Cricket with 42 wickets.