Cricket is a dangerous game for people with weak hearts. The game is a battle of nerves, not just for the players, but also for the fans. Nepalese cricket fans felt this on the 22nd match of the ICC World Cricket League Championship between Namibia and Nepal at the TU Cricket Ground, as it turned out into a wonderful thriller.
The First Innings
The First Twenty Overs: Namibia’s supremacy
Captain of Nepal, Paras Khadka won the toss and decided to field. His decision soon proved to be erratic as the Namibian openers Stephan Baard and Zane Green started fast and steady. They hit splendid boundaries against Sompal Kami, though Shakti Gauchan was more economical on the other end. The lapse in fielding from Nepal in the slips mounted the pressure. Both Baard and Green were dropped by Paras off Sompal’s bowling in the seventh and ninth over respectively. The momentum Namibia had got was troubling Nepalese fielders. With the sun shining brightly, Namibian batters found boundaries in what could be singles and at most, twos. Though spinners Paras, Sandeep Lamichhane and Basant Regmi bowled well during the tenth to the twentieth overs, lack of wicket was hitting them hard. Meanwhile, Namibia had made 91 runs at the loss of not a single wicket at the end of the first twenty overs.
Twenty-first over: Rise of a Young Kid
If Nepal had to stop Namibia, they had to take wickets. The captain called for Sandeep Lamichhane(sixteen years old), who had already bowled two superb overs. This young leg spinner did what he was expected to do. Baard was caught behind by Binod Bhandari as he tried to sweep hard. That little kid’s trick changed the momentum of the game.
Twenty-second to Thirtieth Overs: Run Outs and LBWs
The wicket of Baard changed the game. Though they had good score, Namibia panicked. On 23.2 over, a confusion arose between the two batters. France(what a surname!) was run out off Sagar Pun’s bowl. On 27.6, the batters tried to steal a run off Pun’s bowling. Substitute fielder Karan KC hit the stumps directly to get Erasmus out. The score was 113/3 by then.
Basant Regmi came back in the next over and took two wickets. On 28.2, he got Green, the settled batter. Four balls later, he got Snyman, who was ducked. Both the wickets had been leg before.
The Next Ten Overs: Time to Settle
The next ten overs, Namibia looked to settle down a bit. Sarel Burger(what surname, again!) and Louwrens took the score to 134/5.
The Last Eleven Overs: Namibia strike again
Then Lowrens got out trying to hit a big shot. Scholtz came and struck 22 runs in 17 balls. He hit two sixes before he got out but set the momentum for a better score.
Kotze, who came up next made 32 runs in 11 balls. By the time he was out in the 47th over, Namibia had already made 206 runs. In the next three overs, Smit and Burger made sure they got a score of 239. Burger remained not out as in the previous match setting an achievable target in an “easier” batting pitch for Nepal.
The First Thirteen Overs: Nepal’s slow start
Despite the commentators talking of easier batting conditions, Nepal started the chase at a slow run rate. The required run rate was less than five but they made only fifteen runs in the first five overs (runs per over=3). As Nepal was trying to accelerate, Naresh got out. Smit got him LBW. Sarad Vesawkar came next and settled himself slowly. At the end of 13 overs Nepal had just made 37 (RPO less than 3). There was a need for an acceleration, else the match could be lost.
Fourteenth to Forty-first Overs: Glory
Groenewald (I thought Grindelwald!) ended Gyanendra’s innings in the first ball of the fourteenth over. Captain Khadka came in and played the most glorious innings of his life. He hit five fours and seven sixes in his 103 off 95 balls. Meanwhile, Sarad had made 60 runs before Khadka got out. They had added a record 167 runs between them to take the score to 204/3 in 41.2 overs.
Three Nepalese players completed 500 runs in the List A matches. Gyanendra Malla, Paras and Sarad- the first, second and the third to achieve the feat respectively.
The Last Eight Overs: The Battle of the Nerves
When Khadka got out, Nepal needed 36 runs in 52 balls. That’s when the nerves kicked on. The over the captain had gone off, gave just one run. Namibian bowlers created a pressure on the batting unit. Rajesh Pulami played a rash shot and got caught. Binod Bhandari came in next and played sensibly except on a few occasions until he was bowled out by Burger. Binod had just made 12 runs. And Nepal needed 10 runs in 21 balls.
The pressure would have been settled had Sagar Pun made runs in the 48th over. When he got out scoring two runs, Nepal needed 8 runs in 11 balls. Nepal was closer to victory but Namibia too was closing in. The plot for a thriller had been set. Any team could have won from there.
Sompal really had a bad day. He got out on one trying to play a big shot. Sarad got to the wrong end. Basant Regmi on strike, our hearts had almost come to our mouths. Would we snatch a loss from the jaws of victory? Would we have to suffer a heart break?
The answer came when Basant Regmi made a run to bring Sarad on strike. Sarad struck the next ball but a splendid fielding meant that he would be denied of a boundary as well as strike. 2 off 4. A dot ball. 2 off 3. Fans were saying, “Please don’t do a Bangladesh!” (Bangladesh had lost to India in World T20 last month under similar circumstances.) The prayer was heard. Basant got lucky as the wicket keeper of Namibia missed a catch and Sarad was saved from a run out. 2 off 2. Sarad played a premeditated shot at covers. He ran with a smile, his fist pumping in the air. He had made us victorious, twice in a row.
The crowd at TU Cricket Ground burst into a roar. So did the fans who were watching the match on TV or those who were taking live updates on the social media. Namibia did great but a touch unlucky. Thanks to the both teams for such an entertaining match.
The Championship Table
Nepal climb up to the fifth position. They would have had a better net run rate if they had won earlier. They are playing the Dutch, who are on the top, next. They need to overcome the flaws to target the top four, which will lead into the World Cup Qualifier.