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Nepal take on PNG with eyes on League 2 Series

Nepal are taking on Papua New Guinea in the first of the two-match One Day International Series as the team prepares for its second triangular series under the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2.

Hosts Oman and USA, who are also undergoing preparations, are the other two teams in the series meeting each other since Nepal hosted them at the TU grounds in February, 2020.

All three teams had not played an ODI since that series after the pandemic halted international cricket for a long time and Associate cricket was there to bear the brunt. Nepal, however, managed to play a Tri-Nation Twenty20 International Series in their own backyard against the Netherlands and Malaysia and also won the title.

The 50-over series, however, will be a different ball game for Nepal who have now entered post Paras Khadka era and prepare to give a fitting farewell to outgoing coach Dave Whatmore.

The Australian resigned from his post from Oman ahead of the series which is going to his first and last ODI tournament for Nepal.

“Since the coach is leaving, we want to give him a winning farewell. We would have wanted him to stay for long but he has already made his choice, we want to make sure he goes on a winning note,” said Nepal opener Kushal Bhurtel.

For fast bowling spearhead Sompal Kami, the series will now give an opportunity to judge how players take up the responsibility after the international retirement of Paras.

“We have been talking about this a lot. Paras used to be a big motivator and always pumped us during training sessions and matches. The other senior players are now very much inspired to take up the baton and motivate others, said Sompal.

Nepal-PNG head to head

Nepal and PNG have met four times prior to this series with the latter winning thrice. But when Nepal won, it was history.

It was during the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe when Nepal defeated Papua New Guinea for the first time in one day game and that helped Nepal earn ODI status. Owing to an allround performance from Dipendra Singh Airee, Nepal had beaten PNG by six wickets.

The two sides met for the first time 16 years ago during the 2005 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifying Series in Malaysia where PNG prevailed by 70 runs. PNG also defeated Nepal in both the matches of the ICC World Cricket League Championship in November, 2015.

Opportunity for youngsters

Skipper Gyanendra Malla, middle order veteran Sharad Vesawkar and finisher Binod Bhandari are the only three players who have played cricket for Nepal over a decade. Sharad and Gyanendra have crossed over one and half decade.

The departure of this trio will literally usher a new era in Nepali cricket. But before Nepal take to the field against Oman and the USA in the League 2 Series, coach Whatmore will have an opportunity to try out youngsters for the PNG friendly.

Nepali population will be anxiously waiting over the status of emerging fast bowler Gulshan Jha, the 17-year old who is just two-match old in domestic cricket but was drafted in owing to his performance in them.

Also waiting on the wings will be U-19 skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel who is back into the team once again after losing his spot due to a lean patch for over a year. Nepal left for Oman with a 17-man squad and it will be really tough for both the coach and captain to finalise their playing XI.

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