Nepal might have gone through a euphoria following their qualification in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 but defeating Afghanistan still seems a Sisyphean task for them.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayake has a lot of faith in his squad and expected them to beat the Afghans this time as the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers semi-finals once again set a rematch between the two Asian Associate arch-rivals.
But a high-flying Nepali team bite the dust in front of the huge number of Nepali fans that had turned up at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday with the Afghans outplaying them by seven wickets.
The large number of Nepali fans might not have left the Nepali squad get outnumbered by Afghan supporters but a casual walk on the park from Nepali stars did left a much disappointment.
The jinx of lose the toss-lose the game once again applied as Nepal only managed 90-8 in 20 overs. Rookie seamer Avinash Karn lit up the stands when he picked up two quick wickets to justify his selection ahead of experienced Amrit Bhattarai but with a low-target to chase professional dealing took the Afghans home at 96-3 with 34 balls to spare.
It was Nepal’s sixth consecutive loss to Afghans in the shorter version of the game that extended their search for a victory over them after beating them in the 2004 ACC Trophy plate final.
The man most disappointed was Dassanayake who himself have seen Afghanistan beat Nepal six times after his regime began in the country’s cricket. After Dassanayake took the hot seat of Nepali cricket, Afghans have beaten Nepal in five Twenty20s – thrice in World Qualifiers and twice in ACC Twenty20 – along with the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in August this year.
“We did not play good cricket today. Our batsman could not perform well,” said Dassanayake. We know that Afghanistan have a very good side and tried hard to beat them but that did not happen today,” said Dassanayake.
Spinner Samiullah Shenwari ripped through Nepali batting when he removed middle order trio Gyanendra Malla (14), skipper Paras Khadka (13) and Binod Bhandari as Nepal were left reeling at 44-5 in 10.1 overs. Pradeep Airee (seven) never bothered to move his feet and played on to his stumps a rising ball from Dawlat Zadran.
Sharad Vesawkar was the lone survivor of the Afghan assault making 27 off 28 with two boundaries – one he bottom edged. With wickets tumbling at the other end, a dominant innings from Sharad was never expected. The 90-8 is Nepal’s lowest score in the current tournament beating 107-8 against the Netherlands in the group stage.
Teen Avinash delighted the crowd when he jolted the Afghans with the wickets of opener Mohammad Shahzad (five) and Karim Sadiq (five) by the third over. With Noor Ali Zadran retired hurt, Nepal now needed the best bowling performance of their life to unexpectedly defend the lowest total.
However, Nawroj Mangal and Shenwari halted the proceedings with a 69-run stand. Mangal made 48 off 34 before losing his wicket to Basanta Regmi. Man-of-the-match Shenwari was 24 not out of 33.