Nepal have not beaten Afghanisan in their five previous Twenty20 encounters. The two-time World Twenty20 finals qualifying Afghans were also dominant when they defeated Nepal by nine wickets in a rain-affected group stage mathc of the current qualifiers.
After the match was reduced to seven-over-a-side, Nepal made 73-3 with seamer Shapoor Zadran bowling a crucial two-over spell of 1-13. Opener Mohammad Shahzad’s unbeaten 43 off 22 then handed Afghan’s a victory that put them just one win away from a direct qualification towards the World Twenty20.
Both teams have often cherished the rivalry on the field following the support the teams receive anywhere they visit. The Qualifiers seven-over duel on November 22 was watched by a vibrant crowd at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium and a fist in the air by in front of some 5,000 Afghan supporters given Shahzad after the victory over Nepal was a proof how he relished the win in a fearsome rivalry.
Afghanistan have not let Nepal win after they began their victorious campaign agains the tiny Himalayan nation during the third place playoff of the 2006 ACC Trophy. Afghanistan changed their gears after losing to Nepal in the 2004 ACC Trophy plate championship final and they never looked back before going on to achieve ODI status and play two World Twenty20.
The closest Nepal went against Afghanistan was during the August’s ACC Emerging Teams Cup. Nepal nearly defeated Afghanistan and were once cruising along but a terrible collapse resulted in a three-run loss. Afghan’s back-to-back success against Nepal will now doubt be the biggest psychological edge for them.
Whatever the past results might have been, Nepal now head into the match leaving all the bitterness of their previous defeats behind. Afghanistan though defeated Nepal in their last encounter in Sharjah but in a matter of a week they have now become a team which will play the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 — the biggest boost for a cricketing nation.
Nepal will garner most confidence heading into the semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers and target to provide a double delight to its countrymen when they take on the field at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayek and skipper Paras Khadka are now targetting a place in the final after scriptig history on Wednesday. “We know the strength and weaknesses of the Afghanistna team. We want to play the final of the tournament by defeating Afghanistan this time around,” said Dassanayake ahead of the match.
Dassanayake will once again drop experienced Amrit Bhattarai giving rookie Avinash Karn yet another chance. Avinash was impressive in his first two matches of the tournament — against Bermuda in the final match of the group stage and in the playoffs against Hong Kong. Only unexpected change will rule out a chance of fielding the same side that played against Hong Kong.