Div-II Runners-up Finish : A Blessing In Disguise?

Kathmandu, February 17

National cricket team members arrived home from Namibia today after earning berth in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers.

Nepal will be playing their second WC Qualifiers next month in Zimbabwe. They had finished at the bottom of the table with just one win — against Uganda — in New Zealand in 2014.

But the scenario is totally different this time around. Nepal had qualified as the ICC World Cricket League Division-III winners for their first appearance. The opponents in Division-III were relatively weaker and Nepal could do nothing in New Zealand.

Nepal finished runners-up behind the United Arab Emirates in the Division-II in Namibia this week and the WC Qualifiers berth came with victories over hosts Namibia, the UAE, Kenya and Canada. Obviously, the level of the teams in Namibia event was of higher standard compared to that of Bermuda tournament.

Although the team struggled in almost every match, they eked out victories in last over in at least three matches, including the one against Canada that assured Nepal’s berth in the Qualifiers. Nepal had already lost nine wickets with 51 runs remaining but Karan KC produced the moment of brilliance, ably supported by Sandeep Lamichhane at the other end, to complete the last-gasp victory over Canada in the last ball of the match.

The March 4-25 tournament in Zimbabwe is more special for Nepal as well as other associate nations. The 10-team tournament — which includes four Test-playing nations the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland — will send two teams to the World Cup, while the Netherlands plus three associate countries will get One Day International status for the next four years.

Nepal, who finished runners-up in Namibia, will face Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Scotland and Hong Kong in the World Cup Qualifiers. Group A features the West Indies, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands and the UAE. If we compare the two pools, Group A looks stronger and Nepal would have less chance of advancing to the Super Sixes.

Each side will play the other teams in their group and top three teams from both the groups will make it to the Super Six stage. The first challenge for Nepal would be to finish in three in the group.

The teams will play three Super Six matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage.

As the tournament features four Test-playing nations, the teams making it to the Super Six stage will automatically get the ODI status as the Netherlands have already received that after winning the ICC WCL Championship.

Nepal, who had registered a four-wicket victory over the UAE in group stage match in Namibia, faced a seven-run defeat against the same opponents in the final. And that could be a blessing in disguise for Nepali cricket as they are in relatively easier group.