Nepal’s ambition to secure a direct entry to the World Cup qualifier has taken a major dent, going down to the UAE by a wide margin in the ICC World Cup League 2 triangular ODI series.
Nepal, who defeated Papua New Guinea by four wickets in their opening match of the UAE tour to extend their streak to five straight wins, fell short by 68 runs against the hosts on Thursday.
The home team made 207-8 in the scheduled 50 overs after Nepal won the toss and put them in at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Nepal, under pressure facing the UAE pacers, could hardly manage a fight as they were bundled for 139 in 31.5 overs.
Kushal Malla was the lone fighter for Nepal, making 60 runs. He hit nine fours and a six in a knock that lasted 53 balls. The rest of the Nepali batters failed to reach double figures.
Nepal lost Kushal Bhurtel in the second over after 12 runs. Sabir Ali caught him off the bowling of Muhammed Waseem for five runs.
Fast bowler Junaid Siddique picked up two quick wickets in the space of three balls. After getting Gyanendra Malla caught by wicketkeeper Vriitya Aravind for a duck, Siddique bowled captain Rohit Paudel also without scoring to reduce Nepal to 17-3.
Wickets continued to tumble at regular intervals, as Arif Sheikh also failed to get off the mark. He was soon followed by Dipendra Singh Airee (7), Gulshan Jha (4) and Sompal Kami (4).
UAE's Rohan Mustafa and Karthik Meiyappan each picked up three wickets.
Nepali fast bowler Karan KC appeared to have justified captain Paudel’s decision to bowl first by giving an early break. He cleaned up opener Muhammad Waseem in the fifth ball of the first over.
However, Ashif Khan and Vritya Arvind started repairing the damage, adding 46 runs for the second wicket. Both went on to score half-centuries.
Opener Khan top-scored for the UAE with 72 runs from 99 balls, hitting five fours and three sixes. Khan and Mustafa combined well to add 50 runs for the fourth wicket.
Mustafa and Aryan Lakra shared a partnership of 58 runs for the sixth wicket. Lakra made 28 runs, while Mustafa remained unbeaten on 52. Captain Chundangapoyil Rizwan (22) and Vriitya Aravind (18) were other contributors.
Sandeep Lamichhane, who flew in overnight after being cleared to travel out of the country by the Supreme Court, took three wickets for 27 runs. He replaced Mausam Dhakal, who sustained a shoulder injury during practice and was ruled out for the match.
Karan KC, Asif Shaikh and Kushal Malla picked up a wicket each.
Nepal, left in sixth place with 38 points, face an uphill task of winning all six remaining games to move ahead of Namibia, who currently are third with 39 points, to grab an automatic entry to the World Cup Qualifier. Monty Desai’s wards need to win four games to preserve their ODI status.
Nepal play Papua New Guinea on Friday and the UAE on March 6. After that, the three teams will renew their rivalries, beginning March 9 in Kathmandu.