Rahul Vishvakarma made a grand comeback bowling a magical spell of spin that helped Nepal win their first major tournament defeating USA by five wickets on Saturday.
The left-arm orthodox bowler took 7/15 to reduce USA from 150/3 to 172 all out — a score that Nepal surpassed in 46.5 overs losing five wickets to the delight of 15,000-odd fans at the TU Ground.
It was a wonderful comeback for the youngest member of the team, who was sidelined for two years for suspicious activities during the 2008 Youth World Cup.
“I am very happy to be back after a long bad time,” an emotional Rahul said after receiving the man-of-the-match award. “I came back and performed. I had worked hard when I was missing tournaments.”
USA had a brilliant start, especially due to the contribution of captain Steve Massiah (55) and Orlando Baker (49), despite losing Lennox Cush early on. Their 91-run stand for the second wicket and 41 between Massiah and Sushil Nadkarni had put the visitors on the top.
Rahul bowled first four overs ´round the wicket´ without success and then switched to ´over the wicket´ to claim Massiah. Shakti Gauchan produced a spectacular diving catch for Rahul´s first wicket.
“There was turn on the pitch,” he said. “But the batsmen were playing easy and I decided to switch over the wicket. And, it was good for me.”
Then onwards it was Rahul´s show. He took every remaining wicket in his 8.2 overs giving away 15 runs for seven wickets and the fourth best bowling performance for Nepal.
“Rahul changed the whole thing, it was a magical spell,” coach Roy Dias praised the 18-year-old. “It´s a wonder for a youngster like him to take seven wickets in a one-dayer.”
The youngster said he was not thinking about wickets. “I just wanted to bowl on the right spot,” he added as his proud parents, who had traveled from Butwal, watched him play.
Until the final, he was shadowed by other experienced spinners — Basanta Regmi, Sanjam Regmi and Shakti Gauchan, but it was his day. Sanjam grabbed a wicket along with Binod Das.
“When we started we were placed well at 150/3 but then we lost the last seven wickets for 20 odd runs. That´s where all went wrong,” Massiah commented. “The spell Rahul bowled won the game for Nepal.”
In reply of the tricky total, Nepal began with Mahesh Chhetri and Anil Mandal, who had opened together for U-19 teams, and it proved a wise decision.
They partnered 85 runs in 22.5 overs giving Nepal the best start in the tournament. Anil was first out on 37 off 66 and Chhetri followed soon making 28 off 73.
Although the introduction of Tim Allen and Cush slowed down the run-rate, Nepal were well positioned to win the game. Gyanendra Malla scored unbeaten 28, Shakti 23 and Mehboob Alam unbeaten 17 with a six and a four to achieve the victory.
“They batted sensibly because 170 was always achievable,” Massiah commented. “The pitch was little slower when they batted. They adopted well, they are the deserving winners.”
Coach Dias said it was a high-class performance. “For the very first time, we got a very good start. It was very, very important,” he added.
USA coach Cleyton Lambart said Nepal outplayed them. “We were outplayed,” he said. “I think we gave them a fight towards the end. Once the openers got the start, it was an easy game for them.”
Nepal had previously won two triangulars involving Bhutan and the Maldives — Emerging Nations Trophy — but this is the first time they won a major tournament since the debut in international cricket in 1996.
Pleased with performance: Kennedy
[ICC Press Release] ICC Global Development Manager, Matthew Kennedy, was pleased with the performance of the Associate and Affiliate sides in this tournament. “The Pepsi ICC World Cricket League and the system of promotion and relegation we have in place is really helping the development of many countries and enabling them to find their relevant current ‘fit’ amongst their peers.
“It’s great to see the global rankings have a shake-up after this tournament and the various Members being able to progress up the table. Nepal won five out of its six matches and as such, has moved up to 29th position in the world while fellow Division 4 qualifier USA has jumped two places to 30th position” said Mr Kennedy.
Binaya Raj Pandey, president of Cricket Association of Nepal, said: “It has been a great pleasure to host the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League here in Nepal. To have hosted all the teams and see Nepal promoted to Division 4 has been a fantastic end to this week.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain secured third place after an exciting three-wicket win over Singapore.
Singapore struggled with the bat and was bowled out for 126 runs with Munish Arora top-scoring with 29. Bahrain’s spinners took full advantage of a turning wicket, with Tahir Dar finishing as the pick of bowlers with excellent figures of 4-29.
In reply, Bahrain got off to a terrible start when it was reduced to 16-3 before Imran Sajjad (34) and Ashraf Yaqoob (32) led the recovery.
A flurry of wickets gave Singapore hope when Bahrain slipped to at 105-7, before Fahar Sadeq (23 not out) and Tahir Dar (13 not out) took their side to victory with 89 balls remaining.
To add to Bahrain’s victory today, Tahir Dar was adjudged the Player of Tournament by the ICC umpires officiating at the tournament after the 38-year-old took 11 wickets at an average of 16.9 and also made 146 runs at an average of 36.5.
Referring to his achievement Dar said: “It would have been nice to be promoted but to be recognised as the Player-of-the-Tournament is something I’m proud of and shows that I am doing something right within the team and working my hardest.”
Jersey ended a disappointing week on a high after finishing fifth with a five-wicket win over Fiji.
Batting first, Fiji made 258-7, its highest total in the competition, with Iniasi Cakacaka (78) and Jo Rika (75) featuring in an excellent 161-run stand for the second wicket.
Jersey’s Ryan Driver was once again in fine form with the ball taking 4-58 to finish the event with 11 wickets from six matches.
In reply, Driver followed up his fine bowling performance with a superlative 78 from 104 balls as Jersey romped to victory with five balls to spare. Driver received good support from Peter Gough who contributed 58 not out from 57 balls.