Despite all the odds, Nepal managed to beat UAE on Thursday in a jam-packed TU Cricket Ground. Nine runs win (in D/L) method saw Nepal surpass Namibia in the third position of the CWC League 2 table and booked a direct spot in the World Cup Qualifier.
Only the top three teams from League 2 would get a direct ticket to the Mega event’s Qualifier. Nepal joined champions Scotland and runner-up Oman after registering 11 wins from the last 12 matches.
Nepal bagged a 100% result in the home Tri-Series against Namibia and Scotland in February. Then Nepal defeated PNG twice and UAE once in the penultimate series.
Nepal then had to win all four matches at TU Cricket Ground against PNG and Namibia to complete a sensational comeback. Having won three consecutive matches, Nepal were just one win away from achieving the feat.
UAE once again were standing between Nepal and success. This time the Rhinos couldn’t let UAE spoil their dream, having such momentum. Fans were super excited about the clash on the 16th of March. Spectators outside the Kathmandu Valley reserved the bus to witness their national team play, as many fans from Chitwan, Butwal, and Pokhara were there to cheer Nepal in a decisive match. As a result, TU Cricket Ground witnessed probably the biggest-ever crowd, with more than 25,000 people attending the match.
But their excitement was slowly turning to disappointment. UAE had nothing to lose, and they managed to post 310 runs on the board, the first-ever 300+ score against Nepal in ODI. Muhammad Waseem (63 from 49 balls) yielded an electrifying start. Vriitya Aravind (94) anchored the inning, and Asif Khan totally silenced the crowd with 42-ball 101, smacking 11 sixes.
The disappointment turned into tension when Nepal lost Aasif Sheikh(0) and Kushal Malla (5) within the second over. Nepal recovered and were well and truly in the contest after a quick fifty from Kushal Bhurtel, followed by 67 runs from Bhim Sharki. With Wickets, Big sixes, fours, drop catches, sledgings, drama, excitement and tension, the match gave everything possible.
The tension increased for Nepal fans when the stadium witnessed the little shower, and their team were behind in the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method’s par score. The visitors then started slowing things. Continuously changed the field placement, and fielders deliberately came to talk with the bowlers after every ball. Even Umpires warned UAE players not to do so.
They knew they were ahead in the contest. That’s why Waseem continuously brought pacers into the attack, which would slow down things more. Moreover, fielders were unnecessarily changed continuously, and the home crowd couldn’t hold their emotions. The whole stadium started chanting “Loosers Loosers” with thumbs down. Aryan Lakra, fielding at cow corner, was almost attacked by the water bottle. Former Captain Gyanendra Malla, along with skipper Rohit Paudel and Sompal Kami, had to plead with fans to stay calm. Malla, in particular, was continually getting in touch with the fans and motivating them.
However, the UAE team didn’t change their mindset and kept implementing their plan. The plan backfired when skipper Waseem who had only bowled 47 balls in his 30-match career, stepped up to bowl. Having ample overs of Aayan Khan, Rohan Mustafa and Aryan Lakra, Waseem decided to bowl medium pace in the 42nd over, and that’s when Nepal turned things down.
Gulshan Jha collected 20 runs from that over, smacking a six followed by three boundaries. Jha completed his maiden fifty (47 balls) and was on an unbeaten 47-run stand with Dipendra Singh Airee for the seventh wicket. Earlier, Aarif Sheikh also contributed a vital half-century.
The play was called off by the umpires at 5.37 p.m. local time because it was too dark to continue, with Nepal trailing by 41 runs with six overs and four wickets left. As per the DLS calculations, Nepal’s target at that point was 260, but they had got to 269; hence, they were proclaimed the winners by nine runs.
UAE players were shocked by the umpires’ decision to end play and protested the call. However, Nepal’s dugout was all over the ground celebrating the win. UAE head coach Robin Singh and captain Waseem, in confusion, talked with the match referee, who informed them that the light was too dark to continue play.
The Nepal chase began at 1.45 p.m. local time, which meant that the UAE were significantly behind the needed over rate. It took them nearly four hours for 44 overs (and more than 40 minutes to bowl their final six), which ultimately hurt them.
As they say, ‘Written in stars’, Nepal booked their ticket to Zimbabwe, and a large number of fans present at TU Ground left the stadium happily, dancing and singing.