Wicketkeeper Subash Khakurel took advantage of several fielding miscues by USA to notch 115, the highest score of the tournament thus far, to set the stage for a dramatic 32-run win for Nepal over USA on Friday at Kinrara Academy Oval on day four of the 2012 ICC WCL Division Four tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 19-year-old Khakurel was named Man of the Match for his performance, narrowly beating out teammate Basant Regmi who took 5 for 35 to prevent USA from chasing down Nepal’s first innings 258 for 8. Nepal remains undefeated at 4-0 with the win while USA drops to 2-2 after the loss.
Nepal won the toss and elected to bat first on a perfect batting track. USA made two changes to their starting XI from the day before against Tanzania, bringing back Sushil Nadkarni and Ryan Corns in favor of Andy Mohammed and Abhimanyu Rajp.
Khakurel and Anil Mandal opened the batting for Nepal. In the sixth over, USA committed their first dropped chance of the innings, one of seven clear cut missed chances in the innings as well as four others that fielders misjudged or reacted poorly to off the bat and as a result never got a hand to. Mandal was on 9 when he edged Usman Shuja low to Nadkarni at slip, but the USA vice-captain spilled the chance with the score at 15 for 0.
“I really don’t know what went wrong,” Nadkarni said. “We were well prepared for this game. We knew this was a must win game. Basically we had talked a lot in the team meetings about this game so to come out and miss so many chances in the field, this was by far our weakest performance in the field over the last three games so I really don’t have an explanation for what happened out there.”
Two overs later, Khakurel was on 6 when he chipped Shuja gently in the air to the right of Muhammad Ghous at mid on, but Ghous reacted late and despite a dive never got a hand to the ball. Mandal was on 11 in the 10th with the score 23 for 0 when he pulled a bouncer from Timroy Allen straight to Orlando Baker at square leg, who lunged to his left and spilled a fairly straightforward chance.
Mandal retired hurt on 12 after the 11th over with the score 30 for 0 but Gyanendra Malla came to the crease and added 81 more runs with Khakurel before Nepal would finally lose their first wicket. With Malla fresh at the crease, both batsmen showed hesitation running between the wickets. Khakurel was on 22 in the 13th over with the score on 39 when Malla prodded a delivery to point that Khakurel tried to take a run off of while Malla stayed put. Corns charged in from point and fielded with Khakurel stranded down the pitch, but the throw to the non-striker’s end was wild and sailed by five yards over the stumps.
USA’s bowlers continued to do a decent job of keeping the scoring rate down despite not taking wickets as Nepal hovered around four runs per over through the halfway stage of the innings. Khakurel brought up his half-century off 85 balls to start the 29th over, but on the last ball of the over, Malla was dismissed for 46 by Corns, well caught at long off by Aditya Thyagarajan diving forward to make it 111 for 1.
Image (right) - Subash Khakurel drives through the leg side during his 115. [Courtesy: ICC/Peter Lim]
Nepal captain Paras Khadka came in and with wickets in hand, made efficient use of the batting power play from the start of the 36th over, adding 46 runs with Khakurel over the next five frames to boost Nepal from 138 to 184. Both players were most effective combating the pace of Allen, scoring 14 runs off the 37th and 10 more off the medium pacer in the 39th.
The 37th could have ended with a wicket for Allen when Khadka, on 25, pulled a full toss flat in the air to the deep midwicket rope, but Aditya Mishra misjudged the ball in the air and ran in only for the ball to clear him and land two yards inside the rope before bouncing over for a boundary. On the very next ball to start the 38th, Khakurel was offered another life on 71 with the score on 160 when he drove Elmore Hutchinson to Steve Massiah’s left at cover. The USA captain reached across his body and spilled the chance, the first of three drops by him on the day.
Khadka was run out for 41 off 34 balls in the 40th over as Khakurel struck a full delivery from Elmore Hutchinson straight to Nadkarni at midwicket and Khadka took off when there was no run on offer. Nadkarni connected with a direct hit at the non-striker’s end to make it 180 for 2.
Mandal then returned to resume his innings, adding eight more to his total before pulling a full toss from Allen to Hutchinson at deep midwicket to depart for 20 and make it 207 for 3 after 44. Corns finished up his spell in the next over, conceding just four runs and finished with 1 for 44 in 10, by far USA’s best bowler not only statistically but by the amount of times he troubled the batsmen on the day. Nepal was 211 for 3 after 45 and it looked like USA might possibly keep Nepal under 250, which was crucial to their chances of winning on a day when they had to spend 210 minutes in 90 degree heat before coming out to bat.
However, it was not meant to be as USA’s fielding horrors reared their ugly head several more times in the last five overs. Pradeep Airee skied a chance off Allen three balls into the 46th that Massiah couldn’t claim running back from cover. Airee ran two and then hit a boundary off the next ball before being bowled by Allen for 14 to end a 13-run over at 224 for 4.
Khakurel started the 47th over on 99 and Baker had a chance to run him out on the second ball do deny him a century. Khakurel pushed a full ball from Hutchinson to point and took off while his new partner Basant Regmi wasn’t interested. Baker fielded at point and from 10 yards out missed the stumps. Khakurel brought up his century with a single off the next delivery, taking 135 balls to reach the milestone.
Regmi received two lives in the 48th, the first when he was controversially reprieved off a no ball called on height. Shuja bowled a full toss well outside off that seemed to dip below waist height as Regmi slashed it in the air to Thyagarajan on the third man rope where a simple catch was taken. The umpire signaled a no ball though and it appeared to rattle USA further. Khakurel took the following two pitched up deliveries and smacked them for four and six over long off. When Regmi got on strike again later in the over, he skied a pull to midwicket where Massiah settled under a simple chance before spilling it. Nepal wound up with 15 from the over to stand at 245 for 4 in 48 with 250 now a certainty.
Khakurel finally ran out of lives in the 49th when he edged Hutchinson behind to Steven Taylor to depart for 115 off 142, striking 10 boundaries and two sixes along the way. Sharad Vesawkar was run out first ball on the next delivery as Hutchinson fielded adjacent to the pitch and fired to the non-striker’s stumps behind him to make it 248 for 6 with eight balls to go in the innings.
USA took two more wickets in the final over, Shuja bowling Binod Das for 7 off the third ball and then getting a hand to a drive from Shakti Gauchan down the pitch with the ball continuing on to the non-striker’s stumps to run out Regmi for 6 but Nepal ended on 258 for 8.
Despite the fact that the wicket was still perfectly good for batting, Nepal entered the second innings as favorites to defend with their tidy spin bowling attack and crisp fielding. As has been the case before in USA’s contests against Nepal, Sushil Nadkarni was shifted down the order to negate Nepal’s spinners. As a result, Orlando Baker opened the batting with Steven Taylor.
USA started out the chase in confident fashion as Taylor struck the first two deliveries from left arm seamer Amrit Bhattarai for boundaries. Taylor saw all but three deliveries from the first four overs to take himself to 17 and the team score to 19 but Bhattarai was taken off immediately after one over and off-spinner Sanjam Regmi provided the breakthrough in the fifth when Taylor tried to sweep him but couldn’t keep the ball on the ground and sent a catch straight to Vesawkar at backward square leg to make it 19 for 1.
USA then committed a major tactical blunder, sending Allen in to bat at number three. Massiah’s troubles against spin on tour meant there was a strong probability he would be shifted down the order against Nepal, but rather than have Mishra or Corns enter at number three, two players who are geared to knocking the ball around for ones and twos against spinners while building an innings, USA sent their best late innings basher in at number three early in the innings and asked him to knock the ball around for singles, rotate the strike and build the innings. While Allen did so effectively, it meant that if he couldn’t carry on through the 40th over, USA had no one left in reserve to provide a surge of boundaries in the final 10 overs if they got behind on the required run rate.
Baker was having trouble scoring against Nepal’s spinners and on the last ball of the 10th over, tried to use his feet against Basant Regmi and was beaten in flight and stumped for 8 off 27 balls to make it 35 for 2. Nadkarni entered and built a solid partnership with Allen to provide some stability to the innings. Nadkarni took some time to get settled, scoring just 6 off his first 18 deliveries, but started to heat up in the 16th, cracking the off-spinner Sanjam Regmi twice through the covers for a pair of boundaries.
Nadkarni then brought up the half-century partnership with a six over deep midwicket off left-arm spinner Gauchan to start the 23rd and followed it four balls later by skipping down the track and slamming a massive six over long on as USA ended the 23rd at 94 for 2. The partnership finally ended when Basant Regmi trapped Allen on the crease playing across to dismiss him for 29, giving Nepal the advantage once again at 96 for 3.
Massiah entered at number five and after a cautious start, played his best knock of the tour. A six off Khadka in the 29th spurred him on and soon after, both he and Nadkarni were rotating the strike with relative ease. Nadkarni brought up his 50 in 74 balls in the 31st over and USA entered the batting power play to start the 36th at 147 for 3 having just brought up the half-century partnership in the previous over. USA needed to make it through the next five overs without losing wickets to swing the momentum fully in their direction.
They started off looking like they would make it happen as Massiah smacked a six over midwicket off Sanjam Regmi to end the 36th for a 13-run over to make it 160 for 3. After five runs off Basant in the 37th, Massiah and Nadkarni feasted on Khadka for 17 runs in the 38th, taking the required run rate below seven per over as USA edged in front at 182 for 3 in 38.
With only three runs off the first five balls in the 39th, Massiah tried for a heave over midwicket and was bowled for 41 by Basant to make it 185 for 4. The wicket sparked a collapse for USA which saw shrewd captaincy backed up by more spectacular fielding from Nepal.
Mishra, USA’s best player of spin, arrived to start the 39th and Khadka immediately brought Bhattarai back on for Nepal’s first over of pace since the 13th over. It worked to brilliant effect as Mishra was trapped LBW third ball without scoring to make it 185 for 5 in the 40th. USA scored 35 runs for no wickets in the first three overs of the batting power play, but Nepal took two wickets for six runs in the final two overs of the batting power play to once again take command of the match.
Two balls later, the match was firmly in Nepal’s grasp when Nadkarni was caught by Das at backward point off Sanjam Regmi for 84. Nadkarni got a short ball that he tried to cut in the air through the off side and it looked like the ball would clear the ring, but Das sprung to his left and knifed the ball out of the air with his left hand before crashing to the turf and holding on to make it 188 for 6. USA had lost both set batsmen and three wickets overall in the span of nine balls for just three runs.
Thyagarajan and Corns came together and had a shaky partnership, with both men nearly running each other out on several occasions while Thyagarajan looked rusty, missing out on several full tosses. By the start of the 45th, the required run rate had crept up to nine per over and two balls later Thyagarajan tried to clear long off but Malla took a simple catch on the rope to remove him for 8 to give Gauchan his first wicket and make it 210 for 7.
Corns was caught at deep midwicket by Malla for 12 off Basant in the next over and two balls later Basant completed his five-wicket haul, bowling Shuja without scoring to reduce USA to 213 for 9 with 46 needed off 24 balls and only Hutchinson and Ghous in the way of victory for Nepal. The match ended two balls into the 49th when Ghous was bowled by Gauchan for 2, USA all out for 226.
Nepal’s vibrant and youthful fielding – the oldest player on the team is Sanjam Regmi at 29 – was the clear difference on the day, with the Asian unit holding onto all their catches while Malla and Khadka were effective at making countless diving stops in the circle to prevent singles during the middle overs.
In Friday’s other matches, Denmark had a difficult time beating Malaysia, winning by three wickets with 11 balls to spare after being set a target of 253. It caused their net run rate to take a major hit. Singapore beat Tanzania by eight wickets, bowling out the African side for 94 before chasing the runs in 11.2 overs. The losses for Tanzania and Malaysia meant both teams have now been relegated to Division Five.
After four days of competition, Nepal sits in first place at 4-0 while Singapore and Denmark are at 3-1 with Singapore in second on net run rate. USA is now fourth at 2-2, but has a better net run rate than Denmark and is only 0.078 behind Singapore on net run rate.
While the loss for USA was damaging to their chances of promotion, they are still very much alive but do not control their own destiny. No team has yet qualified for Division Three with several scenarios possible for the final group standings after Sunday. Nepal plays Denmark and USA squares off against Singapore on the final day of group play. USA will need to beat Singapore by only a small margin and have Nepal beat Denmark in order for USA to finish second and be promoted to Division Three.
“We’ll do our best to regroup and make plans and come out fighting,” Nadkarni said. “These games are very tough on any given day. Any team can beat anybody. We will try our best. We’ll try to study the Singapore team through our video analyst and come out and play hard.”
If Denmark beats Nepal, then USA cannot qualify for Division Three. If Denmark beats Nepal and USA beats Singapore, then Denmark and Nepal will finish in the top two and move to Division Three. If Nepal beats Denmark and Singapore beats USA, then Nepal and Singapore will be promoted. If Denmark beats Nepal by a wide margin and Singapore beats USA by a wide margin, both Singapore and Denmark could potentially pass Nepal on net run rate, leaving Nepal in third after winning their first four matches.
DreamCricket.com will have live coverage of an action filled final day in Kuala Lumpur when USA takes on Singapore from Bayuemas Oval on Sunday morning. Live coverage begins at 10 a.m. Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, 10 p.m. EST and 7 p.m. PST on Saturday night in the USA.
Update: Below are some scenarios for USA in their match against Singapore on Sunday in order for them to pass Singapore on net run rate.
USA bats first and scores 200: USA must restrict Singapore to 190 or lower.
USA bats first and scores 225: USA must restrict Singapore to 217 or lower.
USA bats first and scores 250: USA must restrict Singapore to 243 or lower.
Singapore bats first and makes 200: USA must reach the target in 48.0 overs.
Singapore bats first and makes 225: USA must reach the target in 48.3 overs.
Singapore bats first and makes 250: USA must reach the target in 48.5 overs.