Nepal are taking on Bangladesh in the ICC U-19 World Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Friday.
Bangladesh have already posed themselves as serious title contenders having beaten their all three opponents in the group stage. They crushed South Africa (by 43 runs), Scotland (by 114 runs) and Namibia (by eight wickets) to top Group ‘A’.
Nepal, the Group ‘D’ runners-up, though began their tournament with a high flying 32-run victory over New Zealand and eight-wicket crushing of Ireland, they were given a reality check by a seven wicket battering by India.
Although Nepal had defeated Bangladesh by 23 runs in the only meeting between the two sides in 2002 Plate semi-finals, the hosts have now perfectly settled in world cricket. Their age group cricket has marched way ahead compared to few other Test teams.
Captain Mehidy Hasan’s team played inspiring cricket in home conditions in front of fanatical fans to raise hopes of beating Nepal and going past the quarter-finals for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Nazmul Hossain scored an unbeaten century against Scotland, while seamer Mohammad Saifuddin and spinner Saleh Ahmed are the bowling spearheads with seven wickets apiece.
“The journey has been good so far and if we can get to the semi-finals, there is every chance of something good happening. I can feel it,” said Mehidy.
“We have seen a bit of Nepal, whose players seem to be enjoying their cricket. We may be more experienced than them, but one can’t afford to relax in a knock-out situation.”
Nepal will put a lot of hope in their spin attack bolstered by Sandeep Lamichhane, Prem Tamang, Sushil Kandel and Sunil Dhamala. The only concern for them will be their top order which has so far not been able to forge a good partnership.
Coach Jagat Tamatta on Thursday hinted at playing the same side that played in the group stages. Sunil, Sandeep Sunar, Yogendra Karki, Raju Rijal, Aarif Sheikh, Rajbir Singh and Dipendra Airee will be the boys to watch out from Nepal in the batting department.