The familiar duo of Basant Regmi and Sandeep Lamichhane have bowled Nepal into a de-facto final tomorrow against the hosts, with the winner taking the single T20 World Cup Global Qualifier place on offer from the five-team Asia Final in Singapore. Each spinner took three wickets, before Paras Khadka took the game away from Kuwait with 68 at a strike rate over 160 – going past 1,000 T20I runs in the process – as Nepal chased down the target of 142 in under 16 overs.
Khadka appeared to perhaps be plumb LBW first ball of the chase only to be saved by the No ball call from the umpire. The skipper, back after missing the Malaysia match with an injury, got straight into his work though and dispatched the Kuwait attack through and over the infield before opening partner Gyanendra Malla took a liking to the bowling of Kashif. After taking the spinner for 6, 4, 4 from the first three balls of the fourth over, he was caught in the deep trying to slog sweep another six from the next delivery.
From there, barring a slight wobble at the end, it was all Nepal. The under pressure Sharad Vesawkar came in at 3, and was dropped at first slip off the bowling of Shiraz from his seventh ball. He recovered from giving that early chance well though and batted through the remainder of the innings to remain 38 not out from 30 deliveries.
From a powerplay score of 55 Khadka and Sharad took the run rate up to 10 by the end of the 8th over and when the skipper’s half century came up from 32 balls the equation was down to 47 runs from 52.
Both rarely looked troubled on a surface that despite fears the three-wicket square would deteriorate, played rather well, and they took full advantage of the Indian Association Ground’s short boundaries, before Paras inexplicably guided a flighted short ball from his opposite number Kashif into the waiting hands of the point fielder, departing for 68. When Dipendhra Singh Airee was caught by long on three balls later, giving the spinner his third wicket, one could be forgiven for thinking we were in for another heart-stopping finish from the cardiac kids from Nepal.
Rohit put paid to that fear though as he slog swept his second ball for six, as he and Sharad guided Nepal into a final match against Singapore that the still-suspended Associate member Nepal will have to win to proceed to UAE for the global qualifier.
Earlier on, the Kuwait skipper – fresh off leading his side to an emphatic victory of Nepal-toppling Qatar yester – had helped his side post 141/9 after entering the fray at 64/5 at the end of the 9th over. He smashed two sixes and boundary from the final over of Bohara, one a huge cover drive into the adjoining Ceylon Sports Club field from the last ball to finish on 49* (36), after Kuwait’s bright start was halted by Basant who took two wickets in his first over, the last of the powerplay.
Sandeep went for 9 from his first over but came back to take three wickets, showing good craft towards the back end of his spell, setting up up Shiraz Khan with two wider legspinners before pitching a wrongun on the same spot, bowling the right handed batter for a duck in the leggie’s last over.
A tie, abandonment or win for the hosts tomorrow will see Singapore book their first-ever spot in a global T20 qualifier. The game commences at 9.30am local time (GMT +8)
Nepal 142/1 (15.5) Kadka 68 (42) Sharad 38* (30), Kashif 3/30 (2.5) defeated Kuwait 141/9 (20) Kasif 49* (36) Idrees 25 (14), Regmi 3/20 (4), Lamichhane 3/21 (4).
Points: Nepal 2, Kuwait 0.