Nepal joined Afghanistan and Ireland, becoming the third team to qualify for the World T20 2014 in Bangladesh with a last-ball win against Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi. It’s the first time Nepal will be heading to a global event.
Nepal entered the final over needing 13 to win and Sharad Vesawkar swung a six down the ground followed by an inside-edged four through fine leg. Vesawkar was back on strike to face the final delivery with scores level and pierced a packed ring through extra cover to send Nepal through to Bangladesh with a five-wicket win.
Chasing 144, Nepal got off to a solid start, but Hong Kong kept chipping away every time it appeared Nepal was about to seize control. Tanwir Afzal bowled opener Subash Khakurel behind his legs for 16 and Sagar Pun made 22 off 19 before he was pinned on the crease by a full delivery by Haseeb Amjad.
Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka came together and added 33 for the third wicket before Malla heaved Aizaz Khan to deep midwicket for 30. Atkinson kept Nepal off balance with a series of bowling changes as dot balls kept piling up to bring the equation to 32 off 20 balls for Nepal to win.
Khadka only struck two boundaries in his 46 off 39 and cleverly seized on ones and twos to anchor the chase. He offered a chance to Jamie Atkinson behind the stumps on the last ball of the 18th, but Hong Kong’s wicketkeeper-captain spilled it and in the process injured his right thumb before exiting the field for treatment. A front foot no-ball by left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed was slammed past the umpire for a boundary two balls into the 19th and it looked as though Hong Kong would crumble without their captain. However, Hong Kong erupted in the field when Khadka was run-out two balls later after changing his mind too late on a second run.
After sending Hong Kong in to bat, Nepal had bowled and fielded marvellously for the majority of the innings before a hiccup in the final two overs allowed Hong Kong to reach 143 for 8. Hong Kong had a handful of players cross 20, but none made it past 25. The dangerous Irfan Ahmed was the first of three wickets for seamer Jitendra Mukhiya, edging a short ball to Nepal captain Paras Khadka at first slip in the second over. Hong Kong captain Atkinson sliced Avinash Karn to point at the start of the fifth. The two bowlers shared five wickets between them.
The win also took Nepal to the semi-final of the qualifying tournament where they will meet Afghanistan.
“This is the biggest moment of our lives. Our childhood dreams have come true,” Khadka said. “I think the boys have worked really hard for this and been pushing it in the World Cricket League and the Twenty20 format. I think when it mattered, everyone contributed, and I am really glad we have qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014. The tournament is still not over. We are now in the semi-finals and most likely to play Afghanistan. So, it’s about time that we give them what they’ve been giving us all these years.”