Nepal defeat UAE to qualify for T20 World Cup

Nepal have ended a 10-year wait to return to the T20 World Cup, after a comfortable eight-wicket win over UAE in Mulpani

In February 2022, Nepal faced a painful 68-run defeat against the UAE in the T20 World Cup Global Qualifier semi-final, resulting in UAE qualifying for the main event and Nepal missing out. Twenty months later, Nepal were victorious in the same fixture, securing a spot in next year’s T20 World Cup and marking their second appearance after their debut in 2014.

The year 2023 has been remarkable for Nepal, particularly following Monty Desai’s arrival. They managed to secure their ODI status from a seemingly hopeless situation and qualified for the ODI World Cup qualifier, winning 11 out of their last 12 matches. Their victory in the ACC Men’s Premier Cup at home then earned them a place in the Asia Cup, where they showed promise against Pakistan and notably impressed with their batting against a strong Indian side.

Following their Asia Cup appearance, Nepal began the T20 World Cup Asia qualifier with two convincing wins against Singapore and Malaysia. However, a tense 5-run loss to Oman in the third match shook their confidence. This despite Bibek Yadav’s remarkable innings, hitting three sixes off Bilal Khan in the last over.

Their subsequent match against UAE, who had previously defeated them in the tri-series final, drew an impressive crowd despite only 3500 tickets being sold at Mulpani. Over 10,000 fans gathered, with some even watching from rooftops. UAE’s explosive start in the first three overs, scoring 29 without loss, stirred memories of the previous year’s ordeal when UAE’s Skipper Waseem was dominating. Sompal Kami brought Nepal back into the game by executing a run-out with a remarkable underarm throw and then claiming Waseem’s wicket in his second over.

Following this, the Nepali spinners largely controlled UAE’s innings, despite the pacers leaking runs from the other end. The disciplined bowling by Kushal Malla (3-0-11-3) and Sandeep Lamichhane (4-1-14-2) was particularly instrumental. Vrittya Aravind emerged as the top scorer for UAE, crafting a 64 from 51 balls, contributing to UAE’s total of 134-9. At the halfway point, the total seemed competitive on the spin-friendly surface.

Despite an early loss of Opener Kushal Bhurtel (11), Nepal maintained a commanding position during their run-chase. Gulshan Jha’s contribution of 22 and a partnership between Aasif Sheikh (64) and Skipper Rohit Paudel (34*) ensured an unbeaten 68-run partnership, leading Nepal to an emphatic 8-wicket victory over the UAE. Nepal showcased clinical and smart batting on a challenging surface. They now head to the final of the ongoing Asia qualifier to face Oman in their quest to lift the trophy on Sunday.

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