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CWC League 2: Incredible turnaround from Nepal powers them to Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

CWC League 2: Incredible turnaround from Nepal powers them to ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers that will be played from June 18 to July 9 in Zimbabwe.

CWC League 2: Nepal beat UAE in final and qualify for ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers | Walking Wicket (Images_ ©CricketNep_Twitter)
Nepal beat UAE in final. qualify for Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers (Images: ©CricketNep/Twitter)

The moment the match officials declared Nepal as the winner against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last game of Cricket World Cup (CWC) League 2 due to poor light, all the players and support staff rushed to the middle of the ground, while almost 20,000 spectators who were present by the fence went on cloud nine.

In the last game of the 126 across three-and-a-half years in CWC League 2, played at the Tribhuvan University International Cricket Ground in Kirtipur, Nepal sealed direct entry to ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifier.

Nepal’s love of climbing and the pure joy for the game of cricket

They were literally limping at the second-last position with their poor performances as recently as early February, and with little hope of progressing for the Qualifiers of the upcoming 50-over World Cup in India, Nepal turned the clock by winning 11 of their last 12 games and went past Namibia, thanks to 15 victories in 19 games in the whole period.

The importance of the game against the United Arab Emirates, whom Nepal had to beat to go past Namibia, was at another level. And the way the genuine cricket lovers of Nepal supported their team just highlighted the fact how vital it’s to give associate nations more chances going forward.

Even two hours before the start of the game between Nepal and UAE, the queue of spectators was waiting almost 100-150 metres away from the ground’s lone entry gate. The capacity of Nepal’s international cricket venue is around 19,000 but almost two thousand more fans were in attendance to be part of the must-win fixture. Almost thousands of those saw the game after climbing up on different walls or the highest branches of the neighbouring trees.

Few pictures of the ground circulated around social media displayed how some of the fans carried the flag of Nepal to the top as a badge of honour. And looking at everything, two things married to each other after the game were Nepal’s love of climbing up the mountains and their pure joy for the game of cricket.

A hard time at the start of the cycle

The start of the journey for Nepal in the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two 2019-23 wasn’t up to the mark. They lost their opening game against Oman at their home ground by 18 runs after being bundled out for 179. In their very next game, they gained their first victory of the league by 35 runs against United States of America (USA) before losing their next game again to Oman by eight wickets.

After their back-to-back victories against United States after that, they lost their third straight game against Oman, whom they finally defeated in the second phase of the league by seven wickets. In the third phase of the league in March 2022, after beating Papua New Guinea, Nepal were blown away in two consecutive games against the UAE.

After a couple of months break, they began the fourth phase in May with a loss at the hands of Oman before beating them in their next game. But again, the consistency was missing as they went on to lose three out of their next four games. In between these losses, the captaincy of Nepal was shifted as 20-year-old Rohit Paudel was appointed as the new leader.

In early December, after a washout affair against Namibia, Nepal went on to lose three straight games. At that point, the fear for Nepal wasn’t only not being part of the Qualifiers for Cricket World Cup 2023 but also, they could end up losing their ODI status.

CWC League 2_ Nepal beat UAE in final and qualify for ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 Qualifiers _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©CricketNep_Twitter)
A lot of fans gathered at Kirtipur ground (Images: ©CricketNep/Twitter)

The last and essential phase of Nepal’s rebirth

The dramatic change in form for Nepal occurred because of the appointment of Monty Desai as head coach. The former Canada head coach and West Indies batting coach has been in the job for just over a month and most vitally, a transformative change in Nepal’s batting appeared.

In the last phase of the league games, Nepal began with a nervous victory against Namibia in a home game. They went on to win five games in a row and most of them were by a good margin, with the most being by 177 runs against the United Arab Emirates. But the road for them to the peak was quite narrow. The moment they lost to UAE at the Dubai International stadium in Dubai by 68 runs, the space of the narrow road for Nepal’s journey to the qualifiers became slimmer.

They retuned to the winning zone against Papua New Guinea before securing another victory against the UAE. During their March 12 game against UAE, Nepal with a huge victory by 177 runs assured themselves of continued One Day International (ODI) status. The very next day, they crushed Papua New Guinea by nine wickets thanks to an inspiring five-wicket haul by Sandeep Lamichhane and a 21-ball unbeaten 53-run knock from Aasif Sheikh.

The dramatic all-important game against the UAE

Amidst all the excitement, the last game finally started as the United Arab Emirates winning the toss opted to bat first. After losing their opener early, their captain Muhammad Waseem played a wild knock of 63 runs in 49 balls with the help of two boundaries and 6 sixes. Nepal fought back hard with quick wickets at regular intervals as Dipendra Singh returned figures of 2/19 in eight overs.

After Waseem and Aravind (94 runs in 138 balls) set the platform, Asif Khan set the stage on fire as he cracked 101* runs in 42 balls shouldering on four boundaries and 11 sixes. It now becomes the fastest ODI century by an associate cricketer and his century is just behind AB de Villiers, Corey Anderson and Shahid Afridi - in terms of balls taken to reach the three-figure mark in ODIs. This herculean effort asked Nepal to chase their highest ODI total to win the game.

The beginning of the second innings didn’t begin as Nepal planned. At 37-3 and later on 98/4, the home side was struggling ominously. Opener Kushal Bhurtel smacked an excellent 50-run knock in 35 balls. Bhim Sharki coming at number five smashed 67 runs while Aarif Sheikh punched 52 runs. Gulsan Jha’s 48-ball 50* runs with the help of four boundaries and couple of sixes advanced Nepal to 269/6 in 44 overs, when the umpires ruled light was unfair for play to continue. As a result, the home side registered a sparkling victory thanks to their nine-run advantage according to DLS method.

On the 22-yards, Waseem in some animated fashion was trying to understand the sudden decision by the umpires but whatever was spoken between them didn’t matter. There was a time when the UAE players were deliberately slowing down the game because of being ahead as per DLS method with continuous drinks breaks and change of fields without necessity.

Nonetheless, Nepal have now sealed their spot in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2023 and they have joined Scotland and Oman from this league stage round.

The Qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup will be played from June 18 to July 9 in Zimbabwe.


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