Monank Patel's third century in one-day cricket for USA was spoiled by twin fifties from Kushal Bhurtel and Rohit Paudel (pictured) as Nepal chased down a target of 231 to win by five wickets.
File photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
Monank Patel scored his third career century for USA in 50-over cricket, just the second player in USA’s one-day history to do so, but the landmark was blighted by a dismal effort from the rest of USA’s lineup as a first innings total of 230 for 9 was comfortably chased down with an over to spare as Kushal Bhurtel and Rohit Paudel each scored half-centuries in Nepal’s five-wicket win over USA at Al Amerat Cricket Ground outside of Muscat, Oman on Monday evening. Bhurtel scored 84 off 93 balls opening the chase and Paudel closed out the match with an unbeaten 62 off 87 balls to get their side across the line against a USA bowling attack lacking variety and unable to pose any consistent threat.
USA won the toss and chose to bat first as 18-year-old Sanjay Krishnamurthi was brought into the XI for his ODI debut in place of the injured vice-captain Aaron Jones. Only Greg Sewdial (17) and Steven Taylor (16) were younger for USA’s men’s side when they made their senior team debut in limited overs cricket. USA also chose to go without Kyle Phillip, which meant three left-arm medium pacers and four left-arm spin options comprising the core of their bowling attack.
USA lost their first wicket in the fourth over as Steven Taylor edged Bikram Sob’s medium pace low to Bhurtel at second slip to fall for 14. Sushant Modani then fell on the last ball of the Powerplay to end a wicket maiden in Sandeep Lamichhane’s first over, misreading a googly to be trapped lbw for 16 to make it 47 for 2.
Monank was then joined by Nisarg Patel for a 49-run partnership as they grinded away against the Nepal spin trio of Lamichhane, Sushan Bhari and Kushal Malla. The stand ultimately ended when Nisarg backed away from leg trying to cut Malla through the off side and missed to be bowled for 21.
It was at this stage that USA management made the unusual decision to send in Nosthush Kenjige at No. 5, someone who entered the match with 123 runs in 33 career innings for USA in 50-over cricket at an average of 10.25 and only once in his List A career had batted higher than No. 10 prior to this tour. It was especially attention-grabbing considering it meant demoting Jaskaran Malhotra to No. 6 just one match after he set an ODI record for the highest score by a No. 5 batsman while making his 173* off 124 balls including his six sixes off the final over of the innings.
Kenjige tapped 13 singles in his 26-ball innings before he was runout in a mixup with Monank. Kenjige had prodded a ball to square leg with Monank setting off immediately while Kenjige was caught off guard before belatedly trying to respond, only to stumble and lose his balance to allow Kushal Malla to relay a simple throw to Lamichhane over the non-striker’s stumps in plenty of time.
Malhotra then arrived at No. 6 in the 30th
over at 127 for 4 and similarly scored in nothing but singles before he drove a soft catch for 11 to Bhurtel at long-off for Bhari’s first wicket. Monank was dropped a short time later on 79, uppercutting Sompal Kami’s medium pace to deep third man where Aasif Shaikh covered excellent ground only to spill a regulation chance at chest height.
Krishnamurthi had replaced Malhotra at the crease and played arguably the shot of the USA innings in the 42nd
, flicking a googly from Lamichhane flat over square leg for six. But he fell in the following over mistiming a sweep off Bhari to Karan KC at backward square leg in the ring for 13. Elmore Hutchinson fell in the next over to Lamichhane for a four-ball duck, prodding down the wrong line to a googly to make it 185 for 7.
Monank continued to push his way along to reach three figures with a sharply run two at the start of the 47th
over. It was a bit of déjà vu for the top-order batsman, having brought up his most recent century for USA on the same ground in November 2018 against Uganda on the opening day of ICC WCL Division Three. But he fell one ball later, toe-slapping a chance off Sob to Bhurtel at long-off.
Karima Gore then became the ninth wicket to fall for USA, runout for 16 by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end from Lamichhane at square leg in the 48th
. Saurabh Netravalkar and Abhishek Paradkar batted out the remaining 14 balls in the innings, adding another 17 to the USA total to take them to 230 for 9.
Bhari ended with Nepal’s best figures on the day, claiming 2 for 31. Lamichhane was more threatening but slightly more expensive taking 2 for 35 with two maidens in his 10 overs. Sob finished with 2 for 33 in his six overs of medium pace while Kushal Malla ended with 1 for 45 in 10 overs of generously flighted left-arm spin that kept USA off balance.
In the absence of injured vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee and playing their first ODI series since the retirement of legendary former captain Paras Khadka, Nepal’s all-time scoring leader in List A cricket. The only two times previously that Nepal had successfully chased a target in excess of 200 in List A cricket, Khadka had scored a century to get Nepal over the line.- against Namibia at home in April 2016 chasing a target of 240 with a ball to spare; and at Dubai in January 2019 to chase a target of 255 with 32 balls to spare.
Yet Nepal set about overhauling USA’s total with considerable aplomb behind the opening tandem of Bhurtel and Sheikh, who produced a 66-run opening stand across the first 14 overs. Only an impetuous and unnecessary lofted drove by Sheikh brought about the end to the stand as he picked out Nisarg at cover sweeper off the bowling of Kenjige. After captain Gyanendra Malla heaved Paradkar for six over midwicket in the 18th
to hit him out of the attack, Nisarg struck back in the 21st
to defeat Gyanendra’s sweep and trap him lbw for 17 making it 93 for 2.
Nepal wrestled back momentum though with another half-century partnership, this time between Bhurtel and Paudel. Bhurtel did the lion’s share of the scoring as Paudel got off to a scratchy start, contributing just 14 off 44 balls to a 51-run stand. The dot ball pressure at one end forced Bhurtel into a flick across the line to Nisarg, who won his second lbw appeal to make it 144 for 3. Kushal Malla then fell in the next over, pushing away from his body at a Netravalkar outswinger to edge behind for 1 making it 145 for 4.
But USA’s homogenous left-arm bowling attack could not produce another breakthrough while the match was still up for grabs. Following both dismissals, Paudel seized back the initiative for Nepal, slog sweeping Nisarg for six in the 35th
. Another six off Hutchinson in the 38th
took the wind out of USA’s sails in the field while Binod Bhandari was no less aggressive at the other end, heaving Gore over the rope for a six of his own in the 46th
just as the required run rate momentarily had crept above a run a ball for the first time.
Paudel brough up his half-century in 79 balls with another slog sweep off Kenjige over midwicket for his third six, then flicked Paradkar for a boundary in the 48th
to put Nepal one strike away from victory. Bhandari fell trying to end the match with a reverse sweep to Kenjige for 37. But Paudel ended the match four balls later gliding a two with an open face of the bat through third man.
Nisarg and Netravalkar were the only two bowlers to bowl their full quote for USA, ending with 2 for 33 and 1 for 30 in 10 each respectively. Kenjige ended with 2 for 43 off eight overs. Hutchinson (0 for 32 in six), Paradkar (0 for 27 in three), Gore (0 for 37 in six), Krishnamurthi (0 for 15 in four) and Taylor (0 for 12 in two, the only two overs from a right-handed bowler on the day for USA) posed little threat. Gore in particular is going through an extended dry spell, having taken a combined 2 for 167 across 37 overs (83.50 average, 4.51 economy rate) in his last eight ODIs for USA.
USA now has two days off before their next ODI of the tri-series against Oman set for Thursday at 2:30 pm local time, 6:30 am EST in America. Nepal is immediately back into action, playing Oman on Tuesday in the second ODI of the tri-series.