Nepal national cricket team attend a training session on Sunday ahead of its final group stage match against Hong Kong in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 in Zimbabwe. Nepal plays Hong Kong on Monday. Photo Courtesy: Raman Shiwakoti
KATHMANDU, March 12: Nepal is set to face Hong Kong in the last match of group stage of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe on Monday. Hong Kong can still go on to the next round with an outright win whereas Nepal will have to register an improbable win. With the chance of qualification almost over, Nepal may take a more realistic target to get an ODI status at this stage by trying to finish above Hong Kong.
“This has been one of those tournaments where we have struggled to put up a collective effort,” said Nepal skipper Paras Khadka after the third consecutive defeat in the ongoing qualifier. Nepal’s batting clicked, comparatively, in the first match against Zimbabwe after bowlers conceded record runs bowling first. Nepal won the toss and elected to bat first against Scotland but failed to get a par score to mount challenge against in-form European outfit despite some tight bowling by the bowlers. Similarly, both departments -- batting and bowling -- failed against Afghanistan to make it three losses in as many matches for Nepal.
Nepal responded with 264 playing full quota of overs in reply to a mammoth 380 posted by Zimbabwe in first match. Nepal was all out for 149 batting first against Scotland in the second outing of the tournament. Scotland had to toil hard but eventually completed the chase at the loss of six wickets in the 42nd over. In another match, Nepali batting collapsed to 194 all-out against Afghanistan after being 105-1 at one stage. Afghanistan had little trouble achieving the target of 195 in the 39th over by six wickets.
“We need to step up at this level. We need to get on the board. We haven’t applied as much as pressure on ourselves we should have. More than conditions or wickets, we haven’t played to our best level,” said Paras Khadka at the press conference after the Afghanistan loss. The Nepali skipper wanted more from his players after playing lone stands in last two matches where wickets fell around him thick and fast.
When Anshuman Rath shifted to middle order, many eyebrows were raised about whether he will be successful or not in his new role and position. The decision was based on his prowess against spin bowlers and Hong Kong trying to get most of the power play by promoting free stroke-makers Aizaz Khan and Nizakat Khan. Any doubts were cleared with his 85 runs from 117 deliveries against a strong bowling attack of Zimbabwe. He also scored 65 runs against Afghanistan in that famous first win against the Test nation. Safe to say, Nepali bowlers have a job in hand to remove Rath as cheaply as they can to give themselves a better chance of forcing a result on their favor.
For long, Basant Regmi has been Nepal’s most effective bowler in the last decade or so. Amid all the extra efforts bowlers had to put with continuous failures from Nepali batsmen, Regmi has struggled to put up good numbers in current tournament. He was dispatched for 16 runs by Najibullah Zadran in the over he was brought in to make a breakthrough just after the wicket of Mohammad Nabi summed up his bowling so far in the tournament. Not many batsmen are seen doing that against him. At times it sounds unfair to expect Nepali bowlers to perform in every match despite not getting much totals to play for, however, Regmi had been consistent for Nepal. He conceded 43 runs in seven overs and 69 runs in 10 overs against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe respectively. Nepal will need its veteran match-winner to match his performances of past to resurrect Nepal’s deflated squad.
Nepal is languishing in the bottom of Group B table with the worst net run-rate among 10 teams in the qualifiers. Nepal is on zero points with -1.546 net run-rate behind Hong Kong, which is on the fourth position with two points. Hong Kong won the match against Afghanistan and lost to Scotland and Zimbabwe. They also have a negative net run-rate of -1.246 compared to Afghanistan’s 0.038 that sits on the third place in the group table. Zimbabwe and Scotland have sealed their places in Super Sixes round whereas all three remaining teams in Group B have a chance to qualify depending on the result of the match between Nepal and Hong Kong on Monday. Among three, Nepal has the most improbable chance with a dented run-rate that will need a victory by unreal proportions against Hong Kong to move ahead of Afghanistan in the points table.
Nepal’s last completed match against Hong Kong does not inspire much confidence either with visiting team bundling out for 111 runs chasing a low target of 195 against the home team in the must-win match back in October 13, 2017 at Mong Kok, Hong Kong under the ICC World Cricket League Championship fixture. Hong Kong’s off-spinner Ehsan Khan registered his first five-wicket-haul against Nepal. Ehsan is a leading wicket-taker in ongoing tournament with nine wickets in three matches.
Hong Kong skipper Babar Hayat and vice-captain Anshuman Rath lit the Everest Premier League held in Nepal, and have that confidence to neutralize Nepal’s spin dominant attack in a must-win match for them. Hong Kong will look to qualify for Super Sixes with a straight win against Nepal without thinking too much about the net run-rate. Whereas, Nepal will look to win the match and finish above Hong Kong to avoid a potential cross-over playoff match against ODI nation the Netherlands from Group A.
March 12, Start Time 1:15 PM
Match 19, Group B
Hong Kong v Nepal at Bulawayo
Match 18, Group A
Ireland v United Arab Emirates at Harare
Match 19, Group A
Netherlands v West Indies at Harare