Nepal smash UAE in front of frenzied fans to clinch series

Aasif Sheikh and Gyanendra Malla shared a dapper century partnership to set up a crushing six-wicket victory in the series finale

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In their first series after the fall from grace of their biggest star, Nepal enjoyed a frenzied Friday as they clinched a comeback win over the UAE in Kathmandu.

After limiting their guests to just 176 for nine from their 50 overs, Aasif Sheikh and Gyanendra Malla shared a dapper century partnership to set up a crushing six-wicket victory in the series finale.

It completed a resounding bounce back for the home side. They had been soundly beaten in the opening match on Monday, before clinching a three-wicket win two days later.

The result delighted the massed ranks of supporters beyond the boundary rope at the Tribhuvan University ground.

The party started early. Before a ball had even been bowled following the 9am start, a band had assembled on the grass banks on the high side of the ground. They scarcely let up all day.

While their team’s bowlers ran through the UAE batting line up, Nepal’s supporters – including one wearing a pantomime horse’s head - waved flags, sang songs, and showed off homemade banners.

One proclaimed that: “East or west, Nepal is best.” On this day at least, it was hard to argue.

The scene beyond the fence was relatively sedate in comparison to what happened in the game’s second innings.

After 17-year-old whizz-kid Aayan Khan dragged UAE from 93 for nine to their final total, the crowd surged the gates. The main entrance to the ground was thrown open, and fans flooded in.

That was the cue for many more who had hitherto been watching through holes in the bushes beyond the perimeter walls to scale the fences and enter, too.

It meant the crowd inside the ground swelled to almost double, to approximately 5,000.

The batting of Sheikh and Malla thrilled them. As the band led the festivities, some fans were wielding a No 25 Nepal shirt as they danced.

That is the number of Sandeep Lamichhane, the former captain and golden boy of Nepal cricket.

Currently, he resides around 5kms from the ground, on remand at the Central Jail in Kathmandu, where he is in custody facing a rape charge.

In his absence, his former teammates have surprisingly thrived in this series. They comfortably despatched a UAE side for whom this was a first assignment since playing at the T20 World Cup in Australia.

It was they who had deprived Nepal a place at that competition, when they beat them at the qualifying event in Muscat in February. This might not exactly have qualified as revenge, but it was still sweet for Nepal and their supporters.

The joy of the home side cut a stark contrast to that of the touring side, for whom it was another dire display amid an alarming slump in form.

Since the decision was made to dispense with the services of Ahmed Raza – who had a 66 per cent win rate as captain of the national team – in August, the UAE have played 11 limited-overs matches.

They have lost eight of those, which includes five losses to sides ranked lower than them in the ICC standings. The three wins have come against Singapore, Namibia, and – in the first match of this lost series – Nepal.

Updated: November 18, 2022, 11:01 AM