Rampant Nepal outclass disappointing Dutch

Nepal have beaten the Netherlands in the past – once in an ODI – but never with the conviction and comprehensiveness with which they swept their opponents aside at the Tribhuvan University Ground in Kirtipur on Saturday.

For Rohit Paudel’s side it was a remarkable turnaround after their defeat by Namibia on Thursday, but for the Dutch it was a sobering start to their League 2 campaign, a massive comedown after their World Cup heroics just three months ago.

It is true that only six of the team which took on India in November played in Kirtipur, but even so, to lose by nine wickets in 15.2 overs after being dismissed for 137 will have come as a very unpleasant shock to Scott Edwards and his men.

The Nepalese took full advantage of Paudel’s decision to insert the visitors, the pace of Sompal Kami and the left-arm spin of Lalit Rajbanshi restricting them to just 28 for the loss of two wickets in the initial powerplay.

Both those wickets were arguably self-inflicted, debutant Michael Levitt edging Sami straight to Dev Khanal on the backward point boundary as if he were providing pre-match catching practice, and Max O’Dowd indulging in a spot of ball-watching as Sybrand Engelbrecht called him through for a very sharp single and being run out by several yards.

Engelbrecht and Bas de Leede now put together what was to prove the best partnership for the Dutch, adding 38 precious runs in just under ten overs, but Rajbanshi eventually accounted for both of them, Engelbrecht smartly caught by Anil Sah at slip for 23 and then, when the spinner returned for a second spell, De Leede bowled by an absolute snorter for 27.

This left Edwards, yet again, to resurrect what he could from the ruins of his side’s innings, and for a time it looked as if he and Noah Croes might have some success, as Paudel rotated his bowlers in search of another breakthrough.

It took a moment of pure luck to once again turn the tide: after Edwards and Croes had added 30 together, Edwards drove Kushal Malla back hard, the bowler inadvertently deflected the ball into the stumps, and Croes was stranded out of his ground.

From then on the one-way traffic was largely directed by part-time leg-spinner Kushal Bhurtel, who had previously claimed only four wickets from 234 deliveries in 49 ODIs, but who now claimed as many in seven overs at a cost of 20 runs as the Dutch middle and lower order just fell apart.

It began with Wesley Barresi, unaccountably batting at seven, having only appeared this low in the order in five of his 49 previous ODIs, trying to reverse slog-sweep the second ball he received and hitting it straight to Dipendra Singh Airee at backward point, and then, after Paudel had brought himself on for a single over and removed Shariz Ahmad, Bhurtel had Dutt caught hooking and trapped Edwards in front for 33.

Debutant Kyle Klein and Viv Kingma added a few runs for the last wicket, but overall it was a profoundly depressing effort from a side which had gone toe to toe with the best in the world and now seemed strangely tentative and out of their depth.

None of that, though, should detract from a superb performance by the Nepalese attack, who made the most of the conditions and who maintained their line and length throughout, never allowing their opponents to create any momentum.

For the Dutch, however, worse was to follow.

After a reasonable opening over from Kingma, who conceded five runs, Bhurtel went after Aryan Dutt, so often a dependable source of early pressure, smashing his first delivery for six and doing the same off the third before following that up with a four; Aasif Sheikh added another boundary for good measure, and in all 21 came from the over.

Bhurtel then took a six and a four off Kingma before holing out to De Leede and departing for an 11-ball 28, and the tone of the Nepalese reply had been set.

Sheikh and Sah continued to find the boundary with chilling regularity, and on a pitch which offered the pace bowlers little help the batters were able to keep the board moving at an astonishing ten an over, the total at the end of the initial powerplay exactly 100 for one.

By that time it was as good as over, Sah in particular displaying a full range of magnificent strokes against some admittedly indifferent bowling, and he was the first to his half-century, the returning Dutt again subjected to some cruel punishment as Sah twice hammered him away for six and reached the landmark from 29 deliveries.

Now only ten were needed, and Edwards turned to O’Dowd for some comparatively effective leg-spin, at least delaying the outcome for a couple of overs.

Sheikh, too, passed fifty, from a relatively sedate 43 balls, but it was Sah who hit the winning boundary to finish with 57 from 36 balls with six fours and four sixes, Sheikh ending on 54 from 45.

There will doubtless be some serious thinking in the Dutch camp before they face Namibia on Monday, but for Nepal the run-rate benefit they derived here will stand them in good stead for their two return games.

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