Nepal hope for third successive victory

KATHMANDU: “We are taking nothing for granted as every game is like a final for us,” is what Nepal skipper Paras Khadka had to say on Monday, on the eve of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division-V match against the familiar opponents Bahrain.

The two teams have previously met twice at the senior level and Nepal have won on both the occasions. Nepal defeated Bahrain by 25 runs in the quarter-finals of the 2006 ACC Trophy in Malaysia. The Nepali team beat the same opponents by seven wickets during the ACC Twenty20 Cup in the UAE in November, last year. Nepal finished fifth in the T20 Cup while Bahrain ended up 11th in the 12-team tournament in the UAE.

Khadka said he was not counting on the past records. “We are not taking them (Bahrain) lightly as they play attacking cricket,” said the Nepali skipper adding that the advantage of playing previously works both ways.

The hosts will take a step further in their bid to Division-IV qualification with a win over Bahrain — who have lost both their previous matches — at the Birendra Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya grounds on Tuesday. Nepal are behind the United States of America on nett run-rate as they are the only other team unbeaten so far.

Roy Luke Dias’ men beat Jersey by six wickets in the first match before pulling off a thrilling 16-run win over fellow Sri Lankan Marvan Atapattu’s Singapore in the second match on Sunday.

Misfiring opening batsmen Dipendra Chaudhary and Memboob Alam could prompt coach Dias to shuffle the batting order but skipper Khadka expressed confidence over the duo. While Chaudhary have contributed 15 runs, Alam made 12 in two matches. Their failure on the top have consequently put more pressure on the middle order batsmen in both the matches.

In both the matches, it was the middle order batsmen — Khadka, Sharad Vesawkar, Shakti Gauchan and Basanta Regmi — who took batting reign. Khadka (69) played a pivotal role in their win over Jersey with a sedate half century, putting on two valuable partnerships with Vesawkar (33) and Gauchan (32) to ease their run chase. Against Singapore, Khadka (18) and Gauchan (24) got starts after the failure of the opening pair but failed to convert them into big scores. But Regmi (54) rescued the team from a dire straits with a composed half century.

As usual, Nepal have fared well in bowling and fielding with spinners playing decisive role. Sanjam, Gauchan, Basanta and Rahul Kumar BK helped their team to restrict Jersey to 174, sharing six wickets between them. The same spin combination along with skipper Khadka helped the hosts defend 180 against Singapore. They shared nine wickets between them with Sanjam being the chief destructor taking 4-28.

The only concern in bowling department for the home team would be the failure of pacemen Alam and Binod Das, who have not been able to provide early break through. Das has taken just one wicket (against Jersey) so far, while Alam is yet to open his accounts. Medium pacer Khadka turned to spin against Singapore.