Paras Khadka leads from the front as Nepal seals last-ball win over Hong Kong in quarterfinal
Sent in to bat, Hong Kong lost its first wicket in the second over, with Irfan Ahmed falling to Jitendra Mukhiya, the medium-pacer, for 8. Avinash Karn then struck after three overs to remove Jamie Atkinson, the Hong Kong captain, to leave the side struggling at 25 for 2 in 4.1 overs. Waqas Barkat and Nizakat Khan scored 25 runs each as Mukhia and Karn continued troubling the batsmen with disciplined bowling. Late cameos from Munir Dar (20) and Tanwir Afzal (25) took Hong Kong to 143 for 8 in its 20 overs.
Mukhiya was the pick of the bowlers for Nepal bagging 3 for 32 runs in his four overs.
Nepal got off to a steady start in its chase with a 32-run opening stand between Sagar Pun and Subash Khakurel, the wicketkeeper. Gyanendra Malla chipped in with an innings of 30 from 27 balls after Afzal castled Khakurel for 16 in the fifth over. Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain, played a responsible hand of 46 before he was run-out by Babar Hayat in the 19th over, leaving Nepal 128 for 5, needing 16 to win off nine balls.
Sharad Vesawkar and Pradeep Airee then took charge, remaining unbeaten till the end with Vesawkar easing the pressure by smashing a six and a four off the first two balls of the final over from Haseeb Amjad. He took a single off the last ball to take Nepal to its target of 144 and seal the win.
Nepal thereby joined Afghanistan and Ireland to become the third team to qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 2014.
Khadka, who was named the Man of the Match for his innings, was thrilled with Nepal's qualification, the first time it had entered the ICC World Twenty20 tournament.
"This is the biggest moment of our lives. It’s all our childhood dreams come true. I think the boys have worked really hard for this, over the past two months, the past two years, we’ve been really pushing it in the World Cricket League and the Twenty20 format. I think that when it mattered, everyone contributed, and I am really glad we are there," said Khadka.
Reflecting on the dramatic victory, he said: “That’s cricket for you. You can never take things for granted, you have to win it as soon as you can. In the end, it really doesn’t matter if it’s on the last ball or any ball.”
Khadka added that while the side was overjoyed at qualifying, it would go straight back to training to keep focused on the remainder of the current tournament. "The tournament is still not over, we have a chance, we are in the semifinals now, we are most likely playing Afghanistan, so it’s about time we give them what they've been giving us all these years. So we’d like to go out there, win the semifinals, and go on to win the final."
While Nepal readies itself for the semifinal, Hong Kong will face Papua New Guinea in a do-or-die clash on Thursday.
"It was good going in today, knowing we could play with no fear and know if we did lose we had another chance. But I will take nothing away from the effort from our boys today. We put everything out there and it was just unfortunate and was a great game of cricket,” said Mark Chapman, the Hong Kong middle-order batsman.