Nepal will start its ICC World Cricket League Division 3 campaign on Sunday night (NST) as it take on well-known rival the USA in the first match at Somerset.
Nepal is considered as tournament favorite as it had defeated the USA in the league round and the final of the Division 4 last year and has good One-Day records against other teams like Oman and Italy.
It would be ninth encounter between Nepal and the USA in One-Day format on Sunday. Following the latest success, Nepal has superior record against the USA. Nepal had won four matches against the USA in the past while lost two. Two encounters were washed-out.
However, the inclusion of West Indian players in the USA team always puts it as one of the strongest sides in any tournaments of associate nations of ICC.
“Since they had lost last two matches with us in Division 4 and we are in the best shape to compare to the last 12 months, the pressure should be on them,” said Nepali team coach Pubudu Dassanayake before flying to Bermuda.
The USA has included former Test player of West Indies Neil Mcgarrell, who had played four Test matches in 2001. Mcgarrell, 40, had played 17 One-Day International matches for West Indies.
“We have heard about some West Indians in the USA squad and among them one had played even at the Test level. However, we don’t know about their qualities,” said Dassanayake.
The USA had defeated Uganda by 186 runs in a practice match on Wednesday while Nepal’s practice match against the Bermuda XI was washed out by rain. Captain Steve Massiah had scored a ton against Uganda during the practice match.
Meanwhile, Sushil Nadkarni, who had scored 272 runs in six matches he played against Nepal with an average of 64, could be another hurdle for Nepal on Sunday.
However, the slow and spinning wicket of Bermuda could help Nepali spinners to restrict the USA batsmen, as spin bowling is the strongest strength of Nepal. Left-hand spinner Rahul Vishwakarma, who had claimed seven wickets against the USA in the final of the Division 5 held in Kathmandu in 2010, could secure place within the 11 players facing the USA.
Nepal is yet to decide the playing set to face the USA. However, it is almost certain that Nepali team would have a single slot for pace attack and either Amrit Bhattarai or Chandra Sawad will be rested.
For coach Pubudu Dassanayake, picking middle-order would be a tough task as Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Vesawkar, Binod Bhandari, Prithu Baskota and Pradeep Airee, all are batting well in recent time.
Subash Khakurel and Anil Mandal could open the innings for the Nepali team, captained by Paras Khadka.
“We are a balanced team with confidence and experience. We will win the tournament if we get only 80 percent of our potential during the tournament,” said Dassanayake.
Nepali team, which beat the USA in the league and final match of the Division 4, has a high morale for the Division 3. The ACC Trophy victory and the final clash against Afghanistan in recently concluded ACC T20 Cup have also boosted Nepal.
Uganda is entirely new team for Nepal while Nepal has won previous three encounters against Italy and two against Oman. Nepal had defeated Bermuda in the World T20 Qualifiers last year.
All these results put Nepal as the tournament favorite and boost Nepal’s hope of securing promotion to Division 2.
The top two sides of the WCL Division 3 will progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be held in New Zealand in early 2014 and feature 10 of the leading Associate and Affiliate teams. The top two sides from the New Zealand event will then advance to the 14-team ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, where they will join the 10 Test nations.
Nepal is to face the host Bermuda, Italy, Uganda and Oman in the rest of the Division 3 matches.
(By: Navin Khatiwada and Binod Pandey)