Nepal stepped on Bermuda’s soil as the favorites to win the World Cricket League Division 3. After a couple of matches, it looked like Nepal would have to struggle to avoid relegation.
The month changed after that and in May, Nepal came up with the performance that for many were simply unexpected. With the bravery within the field – and some luck – Nepal qualified to the Division 2 and World Cup qualifiers and is strongly poised to win the trophy!
The journey was bumpy.
USA had just two home-born players and one of them Steve Taylor ensured Nepal has the worst start possible. He scored 162 off 102 balls helping USA post 366 in 50 overs. The massive total in a small ground proved well beyond reach of Nepal despite scores of 70s from Paras Khadka and Sharad Vesawkar.
Uganda was not fancied to beat Nepal but they outplayed Nepal in every department very next day making a bad start even worse. The African team bowled out Nepal for 116 in 44.2 overs and defeated by 6 wickets with 138 balls remaining.
Two big losses in April and net run rate reading a big minus. Nepal needed big victories. In May, victories did come.
Nepal beat hosts Bermuda by 8 wickets with 232 balls remaining after bowling them out for 106. And, they also beat Asian team, Oman, not-very-convincingly by 28 runs to remain in the race – a difficult one.
Uganda has already qualified and USA was within inches of the qualification. Nepal’s chances rested on a series of favorable results.
It was unlikely but mathematically possible for Nepal that has always felt luck was on the other side, but it found itself progressing to Division 2, thus to the World Cup qualifiers, by exactly a series of favorable results.
Needing a massive victory, and more importantly also needing Bermuda’s victory over USA, to end at the top of the table, Nepal found that everything happened exactly as they needed.
Nepal restricted Italy to 127 for 9 in 50 overs and chased the target in 14.5 overs with 211 balls remaining. The victory ensured that Bermuda’s win over USA, by any margin, would put Nepal into the final.
Hosts Bermuda, playing in front of dignitaries including West Indies legend Brian Lara, chased USA’s 220/9 in 44.4 overs losing 5 wickets. Captain C Douglas played a match-winning knock of 89 in 75 balls thus effectively also saving his team from possible relegation.
It’s difficult to assess where the magic come from but easy to find from where.
The magic came from determination and bravery of Nepali players. The spinners were not performing well in earlier matches, but they found their mettle in later stage; captain Paras led with example – and Nepal’s continued experiments (some may call it strategy after the success) proved useful.
Against Italy in the final match, with slim chances of progressing, Nepali players took to the ground with such determination that I personally feel that the team was lacking for many years. It was a feeling that luck would favor us only if we ensured the best from our side.
Nepal needed to chase down Italy’s score in 21.3 overs to ensure that Bermuda’s win, by any margin, would put Nepal on final but they didn’t relinquish after getting a quick start and finished it well ahead in 14.5 overs. No need, but why relent while you are going well.
And, what about the chances to World Cup?
Still very difficult, as two out of 10 teams, playing the qualifiers, progress. Six of the competing nations are ODI nations that have not only benefitted by higher ICC funding and better coaching but also by playing with each other – and World Cups – in a previous few years.
Nepal and Uganda will enter the World Cup qualifiers as the lowest ranked team – and finishing at the top is a tough job. But who knows in cricket, such a funny game of unpredictability.
Nepal in Division 3 has already proved near-impossible are achievable – let’s hope for the best and cheer the team that is about to play the highest level of cricket in its history!