Nepal have secured an automatic berth in the World Cup Qualifier after beating the United Arab Emirates in a drama-filled match of the ICC World Cup League 2 triangular ODI series.
The home team, who struggled with ball and bat for much of the match, nosed ahead of the UAE by nine runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
They finished the league with 40 points, edging Namibia by a point, for third place behind Scotland and Oman.
The 10-team 2023 World Cup Qualifier takes place in Zimbabwe from June 18 to July 9. The bottom five teams from Super League, the top three from League 2 and the top two from Qualifier Play-off will compete for the two spots in the cricket’s 50-over showpiece in India later this year.
League 2 Final Standings
On Wednesday, the UAE put up a challenging 310-6 on the back of Asif Khan’s explosive century after they won the toss and elected to bat first at the TU Cricket Ground. Nepal made 269-6 at the end of 44 overs when bad light stopped play.
Nepal came into the match with 10 wins in their last 11 games on the back of tight bowling and improved batting performances.
The match drew another big crowd at the country’s only international cricket venue.
The home team made a stuttering start. Opener Aasif Sheikh, who made 110 runs in his previous innings against PNG, was stumped by wicketkeeper Ashwanth Valthapa off the bowling of Aayan Khan for a duck.
Kushal Malla (5) returned after hitting a four and captain Paudel fell for 16, leaving Nepal reeling at 37-3.
Kushal Bhurtel and Bhim Sarki stabilised the innings, adding valuable 61 runs for the fourth wicket. Bhurtel played some big shots, hitting four sixes, before being caught behind off Junaid Siddiqui for 50.
Aarif Sheikh joined Sarki in the middle and the two took the total to 181 to keep alive Nepal’s hopes. Sarki top-scored for Nepal with 67 runs that included nine boundaries before becoming Siddiqui’s third victim.
A pall of gloom descended at Kirtipur when Sheikh departed after making 52. With the UAE tightening screws on the home team, the required run rate climbed by the over.
But the diminishing hope was revived by southpaw Gulshan Jha. He entertained the crowd with his late heroics, completing his fifty from 48 balls. He scored 20 runs with the help of a six and three boundaries in the 42nd over, turning the match on its head.
And when the umpires called time on play, it sent the partisan crowd into raptures.
Earlier, the UAE made a scorching start to their innings, with captain Muhammed Waseem making his intent clear early on.
Sompal Kami’s opening over cost 13 runs as he struggled with his line and Waseem was quick to punish him with a boundary and a six.
Lalit Rajbanshi gave Nepal a breakthrough in his second over when he bowled Aryan Lakra for six runs. However, the UAE continued with their assault.
Nepal captain Rohit Paudel brought on Kushal Malla in place of Kami to stem the flow of runs. Waseem hit two consecutive sixes and Vriitya Aravind added a four as Malla’s opening over went for 22 runs.
Waseem made 63 off 49 balls and added 79 runs for the second wicket with Aravind.
Nepal slowed the UAE tempo somewhat in the middle overs after Waseem fell lbw to Sandeep Lamichhane in the 17th over. After CP Rizwan was run out for seven runs, Dipendra Singh Airee dismissed Aayan Khan for three and Rohan Mustafa lbw for 20 runs.
Aravind held one end while getting the scoreboard ticking. Once the team moved past the 200-mark, Aravind and Aasif Khan started playing lofty shots to add 135 runs for the sixth wicket.
Khan eclipsed captain Muhammad Waseem’s record of 60-ball 119 runs in their six-wicket win over PNG the other day.
Khan finished on 101 not out in 42 balls, belting one short of a dozen sixes and four boundaries. He raced to 100 runs in 41 balls to become the fastest Emirati to score a hundred and fourth overall in ODI history.
Aravind was dismissed by Kami for 94 runs after playing 138 balls. He hit eight fours and two sixes.
The visitors, who were 208-5 at the end of 44 overs, went hammer and tongs against the Nepali bowlers to score 102 runs in the remaining overs.
After hitting Gulshan Jha for two consecutive sixes in the previous over, Khan hit four consecutive fours in the 49th over bowled by Lamichhane.