All-round effort from Levitt sees Netherlands to tri-series victory

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt against Nepal

Nepal and the Netherlands slugged it out all the way to the end of a final of fluctuating fortunes in the T20 tri-series at the Tribhuvan University ground on Tuesday before Timm van der Gugten struck the crucial blows to give the Dutch a four-wicket victory with three deliveries to spare.

Rohit Paudel’s side had set a fairly challenging total of 184 for eight after he had won the toss and elected to bat, although the Dutch bowlers had actually done well to claw some momentum back in the closing overs, at one point claiming four wickets in eight deliveries for the addition of ten runs.

Kushal Bhurtel and Aasif Sheikh had started brightly enough despite another excellent spell-ette from Viv Kingma, but when Bhurtel overambitiously tried to haul Van der Gugten high over fine leg he missed and saw the ball take the top of his leg stump.

Sheikh, though, was at his clean-hitting best, and there was a succession of sixes to satisfy worshippers at the Altar of the Maximum.

He and Paudel added 59 from 35 deliveries before Edwards turned to the medium pace of Michael Levitt, and the Nepalese captain skied his second ball straight up in the air, Edwards barely having to move to accept the catch.

Gulsan Jha now joined Sheikh, this pair continuing to score freely until Levitt returned and Sheikh, on 47, appeared to be somewhat unfortunate to be given leg-before to a ball which he, at least, was convinced he had hit.

If there was doubt about that decision there was none at all about the dismissal of Dipendra Singh Airee in the following over, Van der Gugten clearly trapping him in front, but with Jha still there Nepal had reached 128 for four with 33 balls remaining, and a score in excess of 200 seemed to be on the cards.

It became more likely still when Kushal Malla, playing a variety of clock darts, despatched Levitt over the boundary at midwicket, cow corner and long on from consecutive deliveries, pushing the total to 157, but then he holed out to Vikram Singh at long on off Sybrand Engelbracht, the same combination accounting for Karan KC five balls later.

With Nepal now throwing the bat at everything Fred Klaassen was the beneficiary, catches by Shariz Ahmad and Levitt removing Jha – for a 25-ball 34 – and Aarif Sheikh  respectively to make it three wickets in as many deliveries, but Patis GC and Sompal Kami, adopting a more cautious strategy, managed to pick up 16 runs and take the score to 184.

Kingma was the most economical of the Dutch bowlers, conceding 22 from his four overs, while Klaassen, Van der Gugten, Levitt and Engelbrecht picked up a brace of wickets apiece.

With disciplined bowling and early wickets it might have been enough, but Levitt set the tone of the Dutch reply by twice hitting Karan over the rope in his first over, and the initial powerplay produced 60 runs, 34 of them for Levitt.

He soon went past fifty for the fourth time in nine innings on this tour, but when Malla came into the attack he removed both openers in the space of five balls, O’Dowd holing out to Airee at long on and Levitt, his aggregate now 343, driving uppishly to Paudel in the covers.

Singh, whose opportunities on this tour have been meagre, proceeded to do unto Malla what Malla had done to Levitt, smashing him for three sixes on the trot, although the spinner might have had his revenge had Bhurtel not grassed an attempted fourth at deep mid-on.

That helped Singh and Engelbrecht add 54 from 38 deliveries for the third wicket before Singh tried to hit over the top once too often and was held by Malla off Abinash Bohara for 29, but although Edwards, determined to maintain the momentum, again went cheaply, Engelbrecht was in dominant mood, taking 20 off four Bohara deliveries before he, too, was caught in the deep for a 29-ball 48.

19 were needed from 11 balls at that point, and it was 12 from 8 when Teja Nidamanuru fell in the same way, lashing out at Malla and only finding substitute Sundeep Jora, who had now taken two fine catches on the boundary in the same over.

Van der Gugten, through, was equal to the challenge, crucially hitting Malla’s final delivery to the boundary to reduce the task to seven off the last, and after Roelof van der Merwe had given him the strike, he hammered a four and a six off Karan to finish with 21 off five balls and secure the win for the Netherlands.

Malla, valiant in defeat, had four for 33, but he had received too little support from the rest of the attack, and a determined Dutch side thoroughly deserved their victory.

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