For the first time in five years, an Associate nation has won a game at the World T20. Okay, so that was a given, as Hong Kong and Nepal contested the maiden encounter between two second-tier sides in the tournament’s history, but Nepal’s achievement, on their World T20 debut, was no less memorable for that.
Paras Khadka, Nepal’s statesmanlike captain and the man who has been so visible in their remarkable rise through the echelons of world cricket, struck a belligerent 41 and Gyanendra Malla 48 to set up a resounding 80-run win. Hong Kong, bristling with confidence before the game, crumbled in pursuit of 150, dismissed with three overs left unbowled as only three batsmen made double figures. Playing in front of the TV cameras, if not a packed-out stadium, perhaps exacerbated their nerves.
Having worked hard to get back into the match after an 80-run stand between Khadka and Malla, Hong Kong slipped quickly back into the red by losing two wickets in the first two overs. Babar Hayat and Waqas Barkat got through the Powerplay before Shakti Gauchan claimed the first of his three wickets and when Mark Chapman was bowled by Basant Regmi – the first of two in two balls for Nepal’s slow left-armer – it precipitated a calamitous collapse.
Gauchan struck twice in the next over, rattling the stumps for the fourth time in a row, and charged off with his arm pointing to the sky in celebration. This was a night on which Nepal’s passion for cricket was given rich reward.
Khadka had said before the match that the challenge would be for his players to control their emotions and not let the excitement of playing at a global ICC tournament for the first time overwhelm them. That a number of full-blooded mows were dropped – Hong Kong put down at least three clear chances – or did not go to hand suggests they were only partially successful in that aim but their vim was much appreciated by a partisan crowd, the vocal majority of which seemed to be Nepali.
It was at the 2009 tournament, when Ireland overcame Bangladesh, that an Associate last experienced victory at the ICC’s global T20 showpiece. Hong Kong had hinted at their own giant-killing credentials during warm-up wins over Zimbabwe and Netherlands but here was a foe of similar proportions – and one that had beaten them twice previously, including at the World T20 Qualifier last year when Nepal clinched their place in Bangladesh.
Jamie Atkinson, who won the toss, inserted Nepal, hoping for his bowlers to inflict psychological blows on a team bowled out for 95 by UAE earlier in the week. The possibility of dew making the ball harder to grip later in the evening may also have played a part in his thinking but, by then, there was no chance of Nepal letting go…. see more