KC emerges as leader of the bowling attack; ‘Brave’ Kushal Malla

Published On: February 9, 2020 09:30 AM NPT By: Rajan Shah

KATHMANDU, Feb 9: Ace bowler Karan KC notched up his second four-wicket-haul of the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) tri-series to give Nepal its first win in home soil. KC was adjudged player-of-the-match to provide a 35-run win against the United States (US) in the third match of the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-nation series being held at TU Cricket Ground in Kirtipur on Saturday.

More than 10,000 fans appealed and celebrated in unison with the fast bowler with his every appeal and wicket respectively. He failed to take his team over the line against Oman in the series opener despite picking four wickets but he left no stone unturned against the US to secure two points on the points table currently headed by the same team Nepal defeated. 

KC helped Nepal bundle-out the US for 155 runs in 44.1 overs after Nepal scored 190 runs off 49.2 overs. 

Batsmen were ducking the short express deliveries and failed to connect anything kept at good to full length at a line outside the off-stump. KC registered bowling figures of 7.1 overs, a maiden, conceding 15 runs and picking up four wickets to emerge as leader of the bowling attack in the absence of Sompal Kami. The all-rounder Kami was ruled out of the series after suffering lack of Vitamin D3.

“I miss Sompal. He is a great new-ball partner,” said KC in the post-match presentation ceremony. “I have worked hard for the last two years. It feels good to be able to produce results. I am always eager to help my team win,” he added.

The American batsman Ian Holland top-scored for the US team with a patient and impressive 111-ball 75 runs and appeared to make a contest out of the chase so far dominated by Nepal. He shared a partnership of 49 runs with Cameron Stevenson for the eighth wicket to entertain the chances for the US which was soon end by KC’s well-directed short ball inducing a catch to Binod Bhandari. Holland had added another 30 runs with Justin Theron for the eight-wicket. Nepal sealed the win soon after Holland’s wicket.

Sandeep Lamichhane picked two wickets in an economic spell for 10 overs which included two maiden overs and conceded 27 runs off it. Similarly, Sushan Bhari continued his golden form with the ball adding another three wickets to his tally after making a breathtaking debut in the loss against Oman. Debutant Kushal Malla scalped a wicket in the match after Paras Khadka took a sensational catch at first slip with his left hand. Wicket-keeper Bhandari stood in disbelief as other players went on to congratulate Khadka for his amazing reflexes. None of the other American batsmen were able to make any lasting impact on the match as Karima Gore and Stevenson were the other double-digit scorers of the innings with 10 and 19 runs respectively. 

Earlier, the United States won the toss and invited Nepal to bat first in morning 9.30 am start. Nepal started cautiously with a change in squad. Subash Khakurel replaced injured Sharad Vesawkar who will miss the rest of the tournament due to gluten muscle injury.

Khakurel’s comeback didn’t last long as edged to slips on two runs off Justin Theron. Veteran duo captain Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka shared a patient 40 runs partnership for the second wicket before being dismissed in span of a run. Malla was caught fondling on 21 runs off 39 deliveries which included four boundaries whereas Khadka was caught by wicket-keeper Akshay Homraj. Stevenson took both wickets. 

Nepal further slipped to precarious position after losing five wickets for 49 runs. The US captain Saurabh Netravalkar dismissed vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee and Aarif Sheikh for a duck and two runs respectively. However, debutant Kushal Malla and Binod Bhandari combined to share a partnership of 84 runs for the sixth wicket to help Nepal recover.

Malla’s half-century, which included four boundaries and three sixes, helped change the momentum of the match. He became the youngest male cricketer in history to make an international half-century after scoring 50 runs in 51 deliveries.

At 15 years and 346 days, Malla eclipsed fellow countrymen Rohit Kumar Paudel’s record. Paudel was 16 years and 146 days old when he broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record by 67 days January last year. Ironically, Malla had replaced Paudel in the Nepal national cricket team middle-order during the match against the US.

Incidentally, Malla didn’t raise his bat to celebrate his half-century when he reached the figure during the match. The teenager expressed that he was thinking about scoring a century at that stage as 14 overs were still remaining before the innings closed.

“We only had 130 runs at the stage. I was more focused on getting more runs for the team. I always felt confident about my batting. I back myself to clear the ropes,” said Malla in the post-match press-conference.

He was quoted as a ‘brave’ player from the US captain Saurabh Netravalkar after the match. “The way he played in the circumstances, it was very brave from him. It was a brave innings from a debutant player.”

Similarly, Bhandari brought up his first ODI century of the career with a well-timed innings farming lower-order partnerships. He smashed six boundaries and a six during his 79-ball stay.

Stevenson was most impressive bowler for the US team scalping three wickets supported by Netravalkar and Theron’s two wickets each. Likewise, Holland, Gore and Elmore Hutchinson shared a wicket each.

Nepal captain Gyanendra Malla stressed on keeping things as it is and getting runs from the middle-order. “I think we batted well in the morning despite playing cautiously. Apart from runs lacking from middle order, we shouldn’t overthink on our strategies or change it.”

The US suffered back to back defeats but maintained its first position tied on 12 points with second-placed Oman. Nepal next faces Oman in fourth match of the tri-series on Sunday.

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