Nepal’s best cricketing heist in St Vincent unsuccessful


Kathmandu, June 16: With two runs in one ball required to defeat South Africa, a Full Member, in the T20 World Cup, Nepali cricket fans had their fingers crossed when 18-year-old Gulshan Jha was waiting for South Africa’s Ottneil Baartman to deliver the final ball of the 20th over at Arnos Vale Ground in Kingstown, St Vincent.

One run of the final ball and the match would have gone for a Super Over. However, Jha got run out and Nepal fell short of a run against the group topper South Africa in the 31st match of the 9th T20 World Cup, which, according to South Africa’s legendary pacer Dale Steyn, was the 'match of the tournament'. 

“Even being a South African, I was kind of like, come on Nepal, you were spurring them on. I think it would have been the talk of the town…talk of the tournament if Nepal had gone over the line; it would have been fantastic…they deserved to win,” said Steyn at the Digital Daily after the match.

Defeating South Africa would have been the biggest win for Nepal in international cricket so far as Nepal has never defeated a Full Member in a dozen different encounters. Moreover, Nepal and South Africa’s senior teams met each other for the first time on Saturday.

Restricting monstrous batting

South Africa struggled in the first three group matches against Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Bangladesh that were played in New York, USA. South Africa chased 78 runs against Sri Lanka in 16.2 overs and 104 against the Netherlands in 18.5 overs; they won the match against Bangladesh by four runs while defending 114 runs.

However, as the South African batters like Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klassen and David Miller were expected to rain runs in St Vincent; Nepali bowlers did not only give them a hard time but restricted the experienced team to 115 runs in the first inning. 

South Africa’s top order – de Kock, Reeza Hendricks and skipper Aiden Markram – failed to perform well in the first three matches. However, Hendricks came out of the struggle against Nepal and played an anchor inning of 43 runs off 49 deliveries before getting out as the fourth wicket in 15.3 overs. On the other hand, de Kock, Markram, Klassen and Miller could only add 10, 15, 3 and 7 runs respectively. Youngster Tristan Stubbs was the second-highest scorer staying not out with 27 off 18 taking the team to 115/7. It was South Africa’s second-lowest total in T20I.

Of the seven bowlers used by Nepal, part-timer spinners Kushal Bhurtel and Dipendra Singh Airee took seven wickets. While Bhurtel bagged four, Airee took three. The bowlers disallowed big hits from South Africa; the hard hitters of South Africa could only hit two sixes in 20 overs.

Making a comeback to the national team after seven months, Sandeep Lamichhane could not take any wickets but gave only 18 runs in his spell of four overs.

“First and foremost, the way Nepal bowled made it tough for us. They put us under a lot of pressure. And maybe there was not enough conviction in our plans,” skipper Markram shared after the match.

Short of two runs

Had Gulshan and Sompal Kami been able to take a run in the final ball and take the match to a Super Over, Nepal’s chance for a win would have been riskier. From 85-3 in 13.4 overs after the wicket of Bhurtel (13 off 21), Paudel (0 off 2) and Anil Kumar Sah (27 off 24), Nepal took four overs to add 15 runs and reach the mark of 100 runs.

Opener Aasif Sheikh stood his ground until the 18th over to take the team to the 100-run mark with his 42 off 49. As Airee (6 off 11) and Kushal Malla (1 off 3) could also not add enough. 

The seventh-wicket partnership between Jha and Kami required 16 of 10 balls for the win. A 105-metre-long six by Kami in the second last ball of the 19th over to Anrich Nortje was what helped Nepal to take the game to the last over with eight runs of six balls.

However, the final over did not favour the young team as they could not steal their biggest win from South Africa in the Caribbean. As Steyn said, “Nepal will take belief from the match. They will now have a belief that they can beat any top-tier team.”

Similarly, Nepal’s captain Rohit Kumar Paudel, after the match, said, “I think I am very proud of the unit, especially the way we bowled and batted…In crunch moments we did well, I thought we fought very good. If we get more exposure to games like this, we will be on the other [winning] side.”

Cricketing world reacts

Nepali cricket fans had kept the loudest shout of the match in reserve as they waited for the final runs to ensure the win. While the loudest cheer by Nepali cricket fans could not be heard throughout the globe, the world was awestruck by Nepal’s performance and the team’s promise for the future. 

“Unreal fans support! Unreal game of (cricket) Unreal night! Nepal, you have won all our hearts! 🫶🏼💛,” Chennai Super Kings posted on their Facebook. 

“So close. Almost there. You made your fans proud and entertained them. Well fought, Cricket Association of Nepal-CAN,” posted Mumbai Indians. Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals also stated that they felt proud of Nepal’s cricket.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Sanjay Manjrekar and Harsha Bhogle also had praise for Nepal in their respective social media posts. After the loss, Nepal’s chance for Super 8 has officially ended. Nevertheless, Nepal can still defeat a Full Member in the World Cup; Nepal faces Bangladesh on Monday in the same stadium.

Meanwhile, in another match of the day, New Zealand defeated Uganda by nine wickets while chasing the target of 41 runs. 

How did you feel after reading this news?