Pitch invasions, time-wasting and DLS controversy set against a backdrop of the fading sun in Kirtipur saw Nepal achieve the most remarkable of victories over the UAE in the Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League Two.
The scenes on the pitch after Nepal secured their place in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe later this year showed the improbable thrill of the finish which had just occurred. The match had ended with six overs left for Nepal to bat, with the UAE nine runs behind on the DLS par total. As UAE captain Muhammad Waseem and Head Coach Robin Singh remonstrated with both umpires and the match referee at the decision to end the game, their protests were futile. The Nepal team celebrated around them, victorious.
Nine runs on DLS seems a near-comfortable victory. But just four overs before, Nepal had been staring down the barrel of elimination. With only four wickets in hand and another 85 runs to get, they were well behind the required rate. Both of their set batters, Bhim Sharki and Aarif Sheikh, who had each scored a half-century, had been dismissed. Into the bowlers with Gulsan Jha and Dipendra Singh Airee at the crease, the improbable seemed to have become near impossible.
But in the space of four balls, the entire complexion of the match changed. Jha walloped a gimme delivery from Waseem into the leg-side for a six. After he followed up with three fours, one of which trickled through the fielder’s legs into the long-off boundary sponge triggering a roar of disapproval from Andrew Leonard on commentary. Suddenly it was the UAE on the back foot. The record crowd in Tribhuvan University Ground mercilessly cheered at his error.
Having been certain they could restrict Nepal to below the DRS required rate, the UAE had been time-wasting from an early stage of the innings. But, as Nepal’s middle order resisted, the match slowed to a crawl. The final six overs took forty minutes to bowl. It was a tactic that, in the end, potentially cost UAE the match.
At the end of the 44th over, the umpires gathered in the middle. Two quiet overs after Jha’s onslaught had done nothing to pull Nepal back, and they were still well ahead of their needed total. By that point, it was visibly gloomy with the sun almost down. As both umpire Buddhi Pradhan and umpire Raveendra Wimalasiri walked away from their conversation signalling for the players to go off, no one seemed sure what had happened. Slowly it dawned on Waseem, the Nepal batters and finally the crowd what they had decided.
As each umpire tipped the bails off the opposing stumps, players in light blue kit and yellow bibs sprinted onto the field. As the crowd cheered, the displeasure of the UAE fielders was evident. They had taken more than four hours to bowl 44 overs – most operas last less – and Nepal still needed 42 runs from 36 at the time the game was called off. Had they managed to get those overs in, there probably still would’ve been a favourable WinViz graphic for the UAE.
Nevertheless, Nepal took two points from the fixture and beat Namibia in their group by a single point. Having won 11 of their last 12 matches, they will join Oman, Scotland, Netherlands and Zimbabwe in the World Cup Qualifier in June, with two spots still to be decided in the Qualifier Play-Off later this month.
The greatest injustice of the match however, is that Asif Khan’s stunning hundred at No.7 – the fourth fastest century in ODI history – will go down in a losing cause. In consolation, however, he has sealed a place for his name to be spoken of alongside the likes of AB de Villiers, Shahid Afridi and Brian Lara.
Special mention as well goes to Andrew Leonard, who lived every millisecond of the dramatic chase on ICC commentary duties. As Nepal got closer, Leonard got louder as he contended with the shouts of the crowd. Expertly calling the final moments of the match, Leonard said: “My oh my, they are going off!… They’re sprinting on, they know they’re ahead on DLS. This is extraordinary! Muhammad Waseem is protesting, the crowd think they’re going to Zimbabwe!”
So hard sum up the emotions after the most surreal end to today’s epic contest
I hope we did the ending justice on air but it really was mass confusion!
— Andrew Leonard (@CricketBadge) March 16, 2023