Nepal lost an agonisingly close encounter with Zimbabwe by just two runs, after being in control of the match for long periods of the time.

Put into bat, Zimbabwe’s top order struggled initially with Nepal’s bowling as, backed up by excellent fielding, the Nepalese bowlers were able to dictate terms. Left-arm seamer Amrit Bhattarai in particular, posed all sorts of problems for the batsmen and could have easily finished with more than one wicket. Paras Khadka took 4-28.

At 43 for 4 after 15 overs, Zimbabwe were in trouble. They were rescued however, by the seventh-wicket pair of Ryan Higgins and Glen Querl as, showing invention and enterprise, they put on 96. Higgins found the boundaries regularly with inside-out shots to the cover boundary as he used his feet to Nepal’s spinners. He was last out for 74 (107 deliveries, 6 fours and a six). Zimbabwe’s last fifty runs had come at a run a ball as they finished on 201.

Another eminently gettable target for Nepal but losing Mahesh Chettri to a run out without him having faced a single delivery, while demonstrating Zimbabwe’s alertness in the field, may actually have been symptomatic of the mental misapplication that would later beset at the end of their innings. It was what had seriously derailed them against England the day before.

Kanishka Chaugai continued in the rich vein of form he showed against England. Compact and chunky, broad-batted in defence and attack, he is fast laying claim to be one of the batsmen of the tournament. However, he would be regretting the fact that he wasn’t able to adequately combat the leg-spin of Zimbabwe’s Test-player Graeme Cremer.

Ryan Higgins getting Kanishka Chaugai into a tangle

On a wicket playing slower and lower as the day went on, Cremer’s flight and turn, in tandem with fellow leggie Ryan Higgins, and Sean Williams’ left-arm spin pulled Zimabwe back in the game. From 93 for 2 in the 26th over, the batsmen slowly but surely lost the initiative as crease-bound and unable to pierce the field, even singles were at a premium. In their 57-run partnership for the third wicket, Chaugai and Khadka only managed one boundary. Nothing they could or did do, pressed Nepal’s claims to victory.

It’s a fine line between success and failure as this match itself proved, but if a team is to win it must keep doing the things that make the opposition lose. Zimbabwe kept the ball full and on the stumps and Nepal neither nudged, flicked or nurdled, biffed, bashed or blasted in any way to upset the Zimbabwean game plan.

Cremer to Chaugai down the final stretch

The required run-rate was climbing with every passing over but more significantly, Zimbabwe was now the team controlling things on the field. Straight after Khadka, the one batsman in the Nepalese team who is comfortable in using his feet against the spinners was stumped in the 40th over trying to force the pace, Prem Chaudhary was caught behind next ball. With Nepal at 152 for 4, 50 still wanted with ten overs left, Zimbabwe were now the team that could sense victory.

Chaugai perished attempting to force the pace, his off-stump knocked back to a ball as he attempted to paddle a yorker to leg and Nepal’s remaining batsmen just weren’t able to turn things around. It was a situation that cried out for a batsman who could play the ball and not the situation for, truth be told, Zimbabwe’s hold on the batsman was one that could easily have been shaken off if a batsman with true dynamic ability in the middle order had been in evidence. Unfortunately, that is one thing that Nepal lacks at this level.

With 24 balls left, 24 runs were wanted, four wickets in hand. With 18 balls to go, 20 runs were wanted, three wickets in hand. With twelve balls remaining, 15 runs were wanted, three wickets in hand. A wicket fell and eight runs were scored in the penultimate over and Nepal and Zimbabwe faced the last six balls with six runs the difference between the two sides.

With Cremer, Higgins and himself having bowled their overs, the Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams gave the ball to leg-spinner Gary Balance. He gave the ball plenty of air and the batsmen no room to play their shots and first Ratan Rauniyar was bowled by the second ball of the over.

Rauniyar bowled round his legs 49.2 overs

Then with a single taken, supersub Yashwant Subedi hit two…

Yashwant Subedi, 49.4 overs

…and with 16 runs to his name and a chance to be an absolute hero if he could manage three off the last two balls. He could not.

Subedi fails to connect, 49.6 overs


Man of the Match
Ryan Higgins

Nepal’s defeat means that they have only the Plate Championship to look forward to, having been thought by many before the tournament started to have an excellent chance of progressing to the Super League.

Speaking after the match a relieved Williams said, “Balance got the ball because he gets it above the eyeline and with Nepal’s batsmen playing from the crease all the time it would have made things very difficult for them.”

A bitterly disappointed Chaugai, said “At 150 for 2 we had the game won but we played rash shots. Making runs when the team loses is not a good feeling but Nepal can still go a long way in the Plate competition.” That they can.

Group D: Nepal v Zimbabwe, Colombo Cricket Club, Colombo
Nepal won the toss and elected to field
Zimbabwe: 201 off 49.5 overs (R. Higgins 74, G. Querl 42; P. Khadka 4-28)
Nepal: 199 for 9 off 50 overs (K. Chaugai 78, S. Vesawkar 38; G. Cremer 3-36)
Man of the Match: Ryan Higgins (Zimbabwe)

Filed February 9 2006