Nepal’s lower order held their nerve to close out a knife-edge low-scoring win over the Dutch favourites. A new ball spell of exemplary discipline and aggression from Sopmal Kami and Karan KC put the Netherlands on the back foot, and regular wickets stopped the Dutch from building any momentum through their innings. Only Michael Rippon spent real time at the crease as Nepal limited their opponents to a sub-par 158. The Dutch attack at times made it look like that might be enough, but despite a tenacious display in the field from the Dutch, Nepal were able to scrape over the finish line with two wickets and three balls to spare.
After losing the toss and being invited to bowl by Dutch captain Peter Borren, Nepal’s new ball pairing of Sopmal Kami and Karan KC made the best of the help on offer from a quickish pitch, the opening 12 overs yielding just 32 runs and costing the wickets of Ben Cooper and Eric Szwarczynski, as well as forcing Stephan Myburgh to retire hurt after taking a Kami bouncer on the elbow.
Skipper Paras Khadka pressed the advantage, inducing edges from both Wesley Barresi and opposite number Peter Borren in his first two overs. With the his team in dire straights, Michael Rippon looked to justify his promotion up the order by once again holding together a crumbling Dutch innings. His task was not an easy one however, and Pieter Seelaar soon followed Barresi and Borren with an entirely inappropriated attempted slog-sweep off Basant Regmi which saw him clean bowled.
The injured Myburgh, trip to hospital delayed, was recalled to try to stop the rot. Together with Rippon he restored some respectability to the scoreline as they put on 50 to take the Netherlands into triple figures. But he was to become Regmi’s 100th WCL scalp on the first ball of the 40th over, and Nepal’s dominance returned. Some low order slogging from Mudassar Bukhari and a wayward last over from Kami got the Netherlands to 158, but few would have called it near par.
But given yesterday’s result against Uganda and Nepal’s reputation for batting fragility, few would dare to predict an easy win. And so it was, Nepal again contriving to give their long-suffering fans an unnecessary scare. Two early wickets for Mudassar Bukhari, finding the outside edge in consecutive balls to see off Budayair and Malla, combined with another excellent opening display from Viv Kingma to put the Dutch right back in the game.
But an aggressive, if reckless innings of 35 from 30 ball from Bhandari put Nepal back in control, until the last of several attempted slog-sweeps cost him his wicket – clean bowled by Seelaar. But with 88 already on the board, Nepal were well on their way and Vesawkar was intent on seeing them home.
Building partnerships with first Sagar Pun and then Sopmal Kami, Vesawakar pressed through a five over fight-back led by Rippon and Ahsan Malik, which saw two wickets fall and produced only 13 runs, to close out the game with three runs and a partner to spare.
For Nepal, a hard-fought win over the erstwhile favourites will doubtless reinvigorate WCLd2 campaign, exorcising memories of the equally close loss to Uganda the day before. After yesterday’s collapse it was easy to imagine them crumbling again as the wickets fell, but the lower order held their nerve, rotated the strike and sold their wickets dearly. For the Dutch it will mean asking hard questions of themselves, but none that have not been asked before – mainly regarding who and what to bowl in the middle overs, and the confounding fragility of an experienced top order.
There will be some positives to take nonetheless, most obviously the performance of young pace pair Kingma and van Meekeren who, though still occasionally erratic, were the most economical of the Dutch attack, and of course the MotM winning performance from Rippon, who again showed maturity and calm beyond his years with both bat and ball.
With only two games played, the tournament is far from over, and indeed Nepal still trail the Netherlands on the table, but once again it seems Nepal is heading in the right direction, whilst the Dutch are on the slide.