Clinical Nepal keeps WC qualifiers hopes alive

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Nepal put up a clinical display to thump Kenya by seven wickets at the Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground on Monday to keep hopes of qualifying for the ODI World Cup qualifiers to be held next year alive.

The bowlers led by Mahboob Alam and Sharad Vesawkar bowled Kenya out for a paltry score of 155 runs before skipper Gyanendra Malla and 17-year-old Dipendra Singh Airee smashed Kenyan bowlers to romp to victory with 118 balls remaining.

Nepal is still at the sixth position in the eight-team league but now has eight points off 10 matches, and is just three points behind Scotland which has played just eight matches. Kenya has 10 points in 10 matches. The top four teams in the league qualify for the next year’s qualifiers. Nepal must win all the remaining four matches—two each against Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates—and hope that other results also go in favor to qualify.

Nepal started the impressive day by winning the toss and veteran allrounder Alam backed the skipper’s decision with a probing opening spell. The left-arm seamer moved the ball both ways and dismissed opener Alex Obanda (9) and Dhiren Murji Gondaria (0) in his second over to reduce the visitors to 14/2 at the end of four overs. He had conceded just two runs in his first six with five maiden overs and bowled unchanged for seven overs for figures of 2/11.

It was then the turn of Kenya’s veteran allrounder Colins Obuya, who had made a fluent 24 off 32 in a rain-hit low-scoring match on Saturday, to take center stage. Obuya, who had starred in Kenya’s dream run to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2003, dominated the threatening third-wicket partnership of 79 runs with opener Irfan Karim (38 off 77) before again falling to 16-year-old legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane for 48 off 78 balls.

Obuya, who was done in by a googly on Saturday, stretched too far for a booming drive this time and was stumped by stand-in wicketkeeper Binod Bhandari. He had looked very comfortable using his long reach against Nepali spinners to reach the pitch of deliveries and his dismissal turned the match in Nepal’s favor as Kenya lost the last eight wickets for 62 runs with part-time spinner Vesawkar claiming four of those for a career best figure of 4/28 in 7.1 overs.

Vesawkar also had an unintended role in restricting Kenyan skipper Rakep Patel who had scored unbeaten 34 off 52 balls on Saturday. Patel was injured after a collision with Vesawkar, who was bowling at the time, at the non-striker’s end and looked severely limited by a leg injury. He limped while running runs for himself and his partners before being caught by Sompal Kami at long on off Basanta Regmi while looking to hit a six. He made 21 off 33 balls. Regmi took another wicket while Sagar Pun also claimed a wicket to round off an impressive bowling card for Nepal.

Chasing a modest target of 156 runs for victory, Nepal was rattled by double strikes by lively pacer Elijah Otieno. There was no juice in the pitch, that had remained under covers for a couple of days before the match on Saturday due to rainfall, and the pitch had dried up further in the Sun with Nepal making first use of it on Monday. But Otieno still proved to be a handful for Nepali batsmen and dismissed opener Dhamal Sunil (1 off 5) and Pun (5 off 7). He also drew edges off another opener Malla with lifting deliveries while the batsman was on 3 and 17. But the pair of Malla and Airee never allowed Kenya a look in after that to seal the match with a 111-run partnership for the third wicket.

Teenaged Airee used his diminutive height to shorten the length of deliveries, and cut and pulled with aplomb to score 62 off just 66 balls with eight fours, most of them with cut and pull shots, and a straight six. The batsman playing his just second senior international outscored Malla in the blazing partnership.  He was dropped at short extra cover on 46 and again by wicketkeeper and first slip on 49 but the match was already won by then.

Vesawkar then joined skipper Malla for a breezy 35-run partnership off just 18 balls. Vesawkar continued his good day scoring 24 off just 11 balls with four fours and a six over long on to finish the match while Malla also hit a four and a six during the partnership to finish unbeaten on 64 off 93 balls with eight fours and a six.

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