It was a historic win, of course. Nepal’s first, though surely not last, in ODI cricket. A thriller, a one run margin, the sort of game they’ve won a lot of, recently. The sort of game that got them here. In the end they were almost undone by the kind of last-wicket stand that they usually put on themslelves. By rights, the Dutch deserved the win, at least last wicket pair of Paul van Meekeren and Fred Klaassen deserved it. Two to win off the last ball, Klaassen reads the slower ball from Khadka (who else would be bowling?) and meets it with a firm straight drive, the Nepal skipper wheels to watch it go and with it the game.
Except it doesn’t. It’s too straight. It smashes off stump and rolls right back at him. A lesser man might stare in disbelief but Khadka’s been here before. It’s how he won the final of the Everest Premiere league – another last-ball finish – ball in hand and grabs the stump and Klaassen’s still well behind him chasing a 216th run for the Dutch and a tie that would also be denied them. It’s hard to imagine though that Klaassen will curse his luck for long though, even he would struggle to begrudge Nepal the win.
As on Wednesday, it had been a back-and-forth match, though unlike Wednesday the cricket was compelling. A much-improved Dutch bowling attack had Nepal on the back foot for much of the first innings, but a courageous fightback led first by Khadka and then a masterful counterattacking knock from Sompal Kami saw the visitors to a competitive, if chaseable, total of 216. The Dutch looked like making it comfortably, whilst Dan ter Braak and Wesley Barresi were together for the third wicket, but Nepal never stopped fighting, and a double-wicket intervention from Sandeep Lamichanne sparked a middle-order collapse that would set up a thrilling denoument.
Nepal’s opening pair, Gyanendra Malla and Subash Khakurel (back in the side for the injured Sharad Vesawkar), did well early to resist a hostile opening spell from Paul van Meekeren and Fred Klaassen, the latter especailly finding a better line than his first spell on Wednesday. Klaassen would find his reward eventually though, removing Malla with a ball that rose from back of a length and jagged away to find the outside edge to break the partnership for 29. Anil Sah rather gifted Klaassen his second, spooning a leg stump half volley to mid on, but Klaassen’s third was entirely earned, bringing one back in through Khakurel and into the stumps.
The Dutch would press there advantage and Nepal’s familiar middle order trouble resurfaced, Dipendra Airee run out ball-watching after looking increasingly set, and young debutant Rohit Paudel falling victim to a beauty from Michael Rippon that spun hard and took the edge. Skipper Paras Khadka looked to take the fight to the Dutch, looking to hit his team out of trouble as he put his opposite number Pieter Seelaar well back over his head and into the water in consecutive overs to become the second Nepali bat to record an ODI half-century, but would perish top-edging a sweep five balls later.
Though too often with Nepal, Khadka’s wicket precipitates rapid collapse, on this occasion Sompal Kami continued where his skipper left off, and then some. Though he fell at the other end, Kami continued to play fluently, taking advantage as the Dutch tired in the heat. His 46-ball 61 with 5 fours and 3 sixes will likely stand for some time as Nepal’s finest ODI innings, given the sparse schedule ahead, and pushed the total up past the 200-run mark before Rippon finally pushed one through into the stumps as Kami packed away looking to cut.
With 216 on the board at the break, Nepal will have felt they were in with every chance. More so, when Kami ripped out Stephan Myburgh’s off stump with an inswinger two balls into the Dutch innings. The Dutch recovery was interrupted when Bhandari drew a leading edge from Ben Cooper, who had looked too keen to go square throughout his innings, which should by all rights have dropped safe over the circle, but for a brilliant, back-tracking, over-the-shoulder one-hander from young Rohit Paudel.
That grab would be the last thing the Nepalese section of the crowd (surpisingly outnumbered by the locals today) would have to cheer for some 21 overs. Ter Braak was joined by Wesley Barresi and the pair would put on a dogged 84-run stand for the third wicket, taking the Dutch past the half-way mark by the 29th over.
At 114 for 2 the pair looked to be building toward a comfortable win when, inevitably, Sandeep Lamichanne made his first impact on the game. Ter Braak had never looked entirely comfortable against the young leggy, was pinned on the back foot by a wrong-un, and Bas de Leede danced past another three balls later, looking to put Lamichanne over the scorers’ box as he did in the previous match.
When Michael Rippon top-edged a somewhat uncalled-for cut shot off Basant Regmi to slip three overs later, Nepal were suddenly well on top. Again however, with the Dutch on the back foot, Khadka was quick to take Lamichanne out of the attack, looking to keep a couple of overs up his sleave.
Had things turned out differently doubtless this would have been much remarked upon, but there would be no consolidating, game-winning partnership to follow. Barresi, the set batsman on 71, would be trapped dead in front of all three by Airee with the Dutch still 74 runs short. Seelaar would dig in, but Edwards would fall to Bhandari trying to play around his front pad and Seelaar himself would slap Khadka to Malla at backward point for 21.
Finally scenting the blood in the water, Khadka brought Lamichanne back on and after being heaved over deep midwicket for six he removed the last recognised Dutch batsman the next ball, beaten every-which-way by another googly. There were 32 runs to get when van Meekeren and Klaassen came together, and 6.3 overs to get them.
They got 30 of them, and deserved all 32. They gave no chances really, just picking the singles and running hard for twos, helped along by the occasional misfield or wide by an increasingly nervy looking Nepal side. Looking to take it deep, they would take it all the way.
Six needed off the last over and Khadka, of course, steps up himself. A single tucked to leg. A dot into the covers. A slower ball is spooned but falls safe for one. A clever dink past point brings two. The next is down leg, and an appeal for caught behind, no joy but no wide either, pad says the umpire. Two from the last, one for the tie. Another slower ball and Klaassen drives straight…
The rest is history.