LONDON – The Nepal cricket team has tasted triumph at Lord’s, beating the MCC by 41 runs in what will go down as an historic victory today. In front of a crowd in excess of 4000, the Nepal side exhibited class in both facets of the game. Showing strength and guile at times with the bat, their effort in the field turned the game in their favour.
Batting first, Nepal began their innings in impressive style, with Gyanendra Malla cutting Alex Senneck for two boundaries in the first over through point. At the other end for Nepal, Anil Mandal edged multiple balls short of the slips fielders and found himself dismissed caught and bowled for two. Chad Barrett’s second ball of his second over held on the wicket slightly, leaving Mandal popping it back to the Leicestershire man on his follow through for a simple catch.
Sharad Vesawkar strode out at number three and evaded a short ball first up, looking to start steadily and build on his success from the two wins against Namibia back in April. While he opened his account with a single into the mid-wicket and mid-on gap, Malla continued his onslaught of Senneck, much to the delight of the Nepali fans on the Eastern Stand. Cutting and driving strongly, Malla also whipped several balls effortlessly off his pads – both on the ground and in the air.
Malla looked comfortable dealing with the MCC attack, particularly Senneck who he took a liking to. Looking to stop the bleeding, MCC captain Keith Dutch brought Steve Clark on in the seventh over from the Pavillion end. While appearing to find the desired areas early, his over was spoiled by a half-volley outside the off stump. Vesawkar, watchful early in his innings, made the most of the chance with a blazing cover drive for four, which also brought a change to the field.
Barrett continued at the other end and both he and Steve Clark found more movement in the air, helped by a shift in focus on bowling a fuller length. Sweating on a bad ball, Vesawkar showed attacking intentions in the 11th over, clearing his front leg and driving Clark back over his head in front of the impressed pavilion crowd. Vesawkar then displayed finesse with his next two boundaries – both behind square on the offside – though was dismissed as Clark brought one back into the right-hander, taking the leg stump.
Captain Paras Khadka walked out at number four for Nepal to a rapturous reception from the Nepali fans on the Eastern side. The sea of blue and red grew as the day progressed, as did Khadka’s confidence. He built steadily, negotiating Clark who likewise showed more control as he went on.
MCC captain Keith Dutch brought himself on after the Powerplay, conceding four in his first over as Khadka and Malla continued to consolidate. Using the Lord’s slope, Dutch attacked the stumps with the field spread, though Malla and Khadka continued with good running between wickets. Despite men in at square-leg and mid-wicket, both found gaps with relative ease. Khadka ruined Dutch’s second over with a slog sweep boundary in between three fielders. Minutes later, Khadka launched Dutch over the mid-wicket boundary for six.
Nepal looked in the ascendancy as they brought up one hundred at the loss of two wickets, though a mini collapse halted the dominance. Malla on 39 bunted one back to Dutch for an easy catch, and Khadka picked out Clark inside the circle at mid-wicket soon after for 30.
Sagar Pun and Raju Rijal were left with the task of piecing the innings back together, with Rijal responding with a drive over mid-off for four. After 29 overs, the run rate dropped below four for the first time in the day, as the pair continued to grind.
Dutch bowled his ten overs straight, with his last drawing the wicket of Rijal for 24. Looking to go over the top, Rijal held back slightly in his attempt and found Senneck’s hands as he tracked backwards. Finishing outside the circle Senneck travelled a good fifteen yards to take the catch.
With fifteen overs left, Binod Bhandari strode out on the hallowed turf. As the wicket continued to slow up, his first scoring shot – an attempted cut – went through mid-off instead of point. Nepal’s spin quartet of Gauchan, Regmi, Lamichanne and Sagar Pun must have been licking their lips from the pavilion.
Bhandari fell at the start of their late over flurry to Queenslander Clinton Perron, with Sagar Pun falling in the next over to a Barrett yorker. Sompal Kami took a single off his first ball and found a partner in Basanta Regmi, combining for priceless late-order runs. Crawling to a competitive score, Regmi brought up the 200 with a boundary.
A run out to dismiss Kami in the last over ended their 42-run partnership. Aiming to selflessly squeeze every run, the pair ended up at one end, with keeper Phillips wicket handing Barrett a run out on the scoresheet. Regmi finished the innings not out on 24 as Nepal posted 217.
While the target score may have looked under par on paper, early signs in the MCC’s innings suggested otherwise. Sompal Kami and Paras Khadka opened for Nepal with the ball and both bowled maidens first up, with Khadka beating the bat of George Adair outside his off stump. Looking to begin the chase, Steve Clark hurried Adair for a rushed single, highlighting the early pressure. Had Adair not cut Kami for a boundary on the last ball of the third over, the MCC may have found themselves in a position of none for one off three overs.
With the early run flow sluggish, Nepal’s best chance for a early scalp came from the field, with a direct hit from mid-off leaving Adair in a spot of bother. He was saved his blushes after being given not out at the bowler’s end.
With the run rate below three Khadka threw the ball to Shakti Gauchan in the 11th over, well before the Powerplay had ended. In his first over Gauchan had a fierce LBW shout turned down after much deliberation, with the ball perhaps pitching just outside the leg stump.
Keeping the run rate down, Nepal chased down everything in the field, cutting down vital runs, and creating chances. It took the pressure off Gauchan, who struck gold his second over. Around the wicket, Gauchan angled one into Clark, straightening down the line and hitting middle and off stump. Even if the wicket deflated the MCC side, what may have been more discouraging was the lack of bounce in the dismissal.
Next over, Sagar Pun was brought on and struck with immediate effect, clean bowling Glenn Phillips. Pitching his off-break outside the off stump, the gap between Phillips’ bat and pad was the chink in his armour, as the turn on the dry pitch and the Lord’s slope contributed to his stumps being rattled.
Gauchan stifled the MCC batting order with wicket-to-wicket bowling, with another strong LBW shout dismissed, this time against Adair. Squeezing the pressure on the MCC, the required run rate after the 15-over mark grew above five, which then became five and half when Clinton Perren was struck in front off the bowling of Sagar. With the ball appearing to keep low and going on to hit middle stump, the umpire had no option but to dismiss the former Queensland Bull.
Basanta Regmi was then brought on at the Media Centre end, with Khadka keeping the death overs reserved for Gauchan. Directing traffic from first slip, Khadka was on the ball in his field placings, looking calm and in control as his opponents struggled to pierce the gaps. Two Adair sweep shots for four provided momentary respite, but Nepal continued to push their opponents into a corner. At one point, Sagar’s figures were a miserly two for six off four overs.
Adair lost partners at regular intervals, with perhaps the biggest loss that of James Overy, who, like Perren was adjudged LBW. Using the help of the slope, Sagar trapped him in front as he pushed back to defend the off-spinner. At 4 for 72, the MCC found themselves in a spot of bother.
With 27 overs gone, Sandeep Lamichanne was thrown the ball. Showing no sign of nerves, the 15-year-old conceded four in his first over, with one LBW shout dismissed.
Needing a run a ball with 18 overs left, the MCC found themselves a fraction behind on the balance of proceedings. Two consecutive sixes from Adair tipped the balance towards the home side, though Lamichanne struck in the following over. Coles, looking to emulate Adair’s hitting could only find Binod Bhandari on the boundary. With his hands aloft, Lamichanne wheeled away in jubilation. Not many people can say they’ve taken a wicket at Lords, let alone a 15-year-old.
Dutch and Adair continued to add vital runs for the MCC, though the game started to lean back in Nepal’s favour the more the required run rate lifted. Looking to cut and thrust, Regmi’s ninth over was the knife in the MCC chest. The ball after celebrating his chanceless hundred, Adair lost his partner Dutch, bowled attempting to cut a ball too close to his body. Adair followed two balls later, knicking his cut attempt straight into the gloves of Raju Rijal.
Needing 48 off the final three and a half overs, the total was out of reach. Sompal Kami backed up Regmi’s over with the wicket of Chad Barrett, trapping him LBW for six. Regmi then finished off the job, cleaning up Senneck to hand Nepal a dramatic victory.
The Nepal team today showed a class that should see them rise the world cricketing ranks in the near future. After tasting World T20 cricket in 2014 and now the magic of Lord’s in 2016, the future is bright for a young group of players yearning to someday make their mark on world cricket.
By Daniel Beswick (@dbeswick13).