Nepal beat UAE in second ODI to take series down to wire

Hosts secure three-wicket victory in Kathmandu leaving a winner-takes-all deciding match on Friday

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Nepal and the UAE will play a winner-takes-all decider on Friday after the hosts levelled the one-day international series in Kathmandu.

Rohit Paudel's side hit back after their hefty opening day defeat two days earlier, as they completed a victory which was more comfortable than the three-wicket margin suggests.

Despite it being the middle of the working week, another appreciable crowd flooded the grass banks of the Tribhuvan University ground.

The field is shaped into the land halfway up a hill that leads to the university campus. On the high side of the ground, vantage points from which to watch the action spread far beyond the perimeter walls.

Some fans spent the entire day perched amid the bushes outside the arena, but with a perfectly serviceable view.

As Nepal’s bowlers clawed the game bat following a fast start by the UAE opener, Muhammad Waseem and Vriitya Aravind, more and more supporters wanted to get closer to the play.

Many flocked in by the traditional means of paying for admission. Others preferred stealth, as they scaled the barbed-wire fences out of the view of security staff.

The more the assembly swelled, the better the home side responded. From 71 for no loss in the 12th over, the UAE wilted.

Aravind found a boundary rider with a crisp sweep off Dipendra Singh Airee’s off-spin. Waseem, who had lasered four extraordinary sixes on his way to 50, fell to the left-arm spin of Lalit Rajbanshi.

From then on, scoring appearing impossible for the tourists. Rajbanshi and Sompal Kami took three wickets apiece as Nepal bowled their guests out for 191 in just 42.3 overs.

The home supporters waved their crimson and blue flags with increased belief, but the chase was not going to be a given.

There has been plenty of traffic on the square in recent times, with a domestic tournament played right up until the start of this series.

Both of Nepal’s openers fell cheaply to Hazrat Bilal, the fast bowler who was presented his UAE cap ahead of play, even though his debut had actually been in the first game of the series on Monday.

Aayan Khan, who had a similar experience to Bilal before the start, was as difficult to get away as he had been on Monday, even if the wickets did not follow.

And Rohan Mustafa did his best to carry his side through via sheer force of personality. He took three wickets with his off-spin. He also affected a quicksilver run out which saw him collide with the dismissed batter, Gyanendra Malla, and forced him off the field for treatment.

The ambience of the chase altered midway through the innings, though, when UAE were docked five penalty runs. It was awarded because the umpire spotted Alishan Sharafu absent-mindedly applying saliva to shine the ball.

Although that was standard practice before the onset of Covid, the laws of the game have subsequently outlawed it.

The incident raised the crowd. Although the batters continued to struggle on, with Nepal falling to 106-6 in the 30th over, they did eventually respond.

It took a seventh-wicket stand worth 62 between Gulshan Jha and Aarif Sheikh to finally settle the home side.

Gulsan, a 16-year-old all-rounder, launched one huge six over the fence in his valuable cameo of 37.

Although he became Mustafa’s third victim, he had done enough to ensure his side would ward off any late-overs jitters.

It was left to Kami to score the winning runs, as he laced a drive off Waseem’s part-time seam bowling for the four that clinched it.

Updated: November 16, 2022, 12:19 PM