Nepali cricket fans cheer during the ICC World Cricket League Championship match between Nepal and Kenya at the TU cricket ground, Kirtipur on Saturday.
KATHMANDU, March 13: With only mathematical hopes of direct qualification into the 2019 ICC World Cricket Qualifiers, under pressure Nepal faces a stern test in its second match against Kenya two days after facing defeat at the hands of the same opponent in the ICC World Cricket League Championship at the TU grounds, Kirtipur.
Nepal on Saturday faced a five-wicket defeat at the hands of the East African opponent in the rain-hit match interrupted thrice and target revised on the basis of the D/L method.
The tournament, a gateway for the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers of 50 over, carries a big significance for both Nepal and Kenya. The top four finishers in the eight-team contest being played at double round robin format books an automatic berth for the World Cup Qualifiers. Nepal currently stands sixth with six points from nine matches while Kenya is one spot ahead of Nepal with 12 points playing equal number of matches.
However, a defeat in the first leg against Kenya has not just hit Nepal’s ambition of direct qualification into the World Cup; it now depends on the outcome of other teams irrespective of winning results in the remaining five matches of the tournament.
Highlighting the importance of the match, Nepal’s skipper Paras Khadka on Friday said, “We will not take the opponents lightly and Kenya matches definitely have big importance for our World Cup ambition. However, a winning result is equally important for Kenya as well. Let’s hope we will get a positive result, but we must play a better game.”
However, Paras, the influential performer of the team, was not in the starting list in the first match against Kenya due to health issue. It is yet to be confirmed if he will play on Monday. Paras had undergone appendicitis surgery on February 18 and he did not join the team’s India tour ahead of the tournament organized to prepare the team for the tournament. He joined the team’s training after it returned home from India on March 3.
Gyanendra Malla, the stand-in-skipper, pointed out the shortened play and ‘flop’ batting as the key reasons behind the defeat. The 27 runs scored by Malla turned was the highest score by Nepal which posted 112 runs at close in the 36 over play. The unbeaten ninth wicket partnership of 30 runs between Shakti Gauchan (18 runs) and Sompal Kami (15 runs) was the biggest partnership for Nepal. Coincidentally, there is no forecast of rain and home team batsmen must come up with improved batting and take wickets regularly to put Kenya under pressure.
“There was no significant partnership in our innings and we must improve that,” Gyanendra said echoing his mentor Jagat Tamata. “We are not in a situation to predict the outcome of the next match.”
Besides improvement in batting, Nepal must also be able to cope up with the fast pace bowling of Kenya players Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo and Elijah Otieno and also the spin attack of Shem Ngoche and skipper Rakep Patel.
Meanwhile, veteran Mehboob Alam is likely to be replaced from the starting lineup by Md Aarif Sheikh for Nepal. Similarly, a roaring home support will be the extra advantage for Nepal.