New Delhi, March 15: In what could be termed as a massive day for cricket fans in Nepal, their national side gained ODI status for the first time in their history after beating Papua New Guinea by six wickets in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier play-off at Old Hararians Sports Club.
Nepal's bowlers laid the platform for the comprehensive win, with Sandeep Lamichhane and Dipendra Airee taking four wickets apiece to dismiss their opponents for 114 in just 27.2 overs. It was another disappointing batting display from PNG, who have now been bowled out for 200 or fewer in four of their five matches in the competition. The defeat confirms they will lose their ODI status.
Paras Khadka's decision to field upon winning the toss was vindicated when Sompal Kami trapped Assad Vala, the PNG skipper, lbw in the third over for 10. Karan KC then got into the act, getting rid of the dangerous Tony Ura for 11, as the scoreboard read 29/2.
Chad Soper and Sese Bau took PNG past the 50-mark, sharing a third-wicket stand of 22, but from then on Nepal's bowlers ran amok.
Lamichhane, the 17-year-old leg-spinner, was irrepressible once again, claiming figures of 4/29 to take his wicket tally for the tournament to 11. He took a wicket in each of his first four overs, trapping Soper lbw for 10 and then sneaking one past the defences of Bau (11) before accounting for Mahuru Dai (5) and Kiplin Doriga (10). That left PNG floundering at 78/6.
Charles Amini and Jason Kila tried to rectify the damage by forging a 28-run stand for the seventh wicket, but then it was the turn of the off-spinner Airee to tear into PNG, taking the last four wickets to finish with the impressive figures of 4/14 - the 18-year-old's best in List A cricket.
Amini was the first to fall to Airee, dismissed lbw for an innings top-score of 19, before the spinner saw off Kila (15) and Norman Vanua with successive deliveries. A fantastic reaction catch from keeper Anil Sah removed John Reva, ending the innings in double-quick time.
Two early wickets gave PNG brief hope in Nepal's reply, Gyanendra Malla edging behind off Alei Nao and Sah trapped in front by Vanua to leave the score 13/2.
To the well wishers of Nepal Cricket : Its the “Result” of Years of “Hard Work” ! Years of “Patience” ! Hard work of many “Legends” and here we are now. A big proud day for all the people of Nepal🇳🇵What a beautiful journey so far. Together its Possible. Nepal - An ODI Nation ! pic.twitter.com/Vvbp1go5yq— Sandeep Lamichhane (@IamSandeep25) March 15, 2018
Khadka, Nepal's captain and talisman, helped to settle the nerves with an 18-ball 20 before he mis-timed a pull stroke off Reva and was pouched at mid-on.
Nepal were not to be denied though, as Airee capped a fine individual display with a composed innings of 50* from 58 balls to see his side home. He was ably supported by Aarif Sheikh, who chipped in with a useful 26 before becoming Vanua's second victim, as Nepal reached their target with 27 overs to spare.
Nepal will now take on the Netherlands in the seventh-place play-off in Kwekwe on Saturday, while PNG meet Hong Kong on the same day in Harare to decide who finishes ninth.
Source: ICC Release