Papua New Guinea v Nepal
Old Hararians Sports Club, Harare
Thursday 15 March; 9:30 local time, 7:30 GMT
Papua New Guinea and Nepal impressed in patches during the league phase of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, and despite missing out on the Super Sixes, there is still plenty to play for. A one-day international status awaits the winner of the 7th place play-off – the losing side will claim it if Netherlands, already an ODI side, win – and both PNG and Nepal will strive to reach that carrot.
Nepal seem better placed. They finished fourth in a tough Group B, thanks to their five-wicket victory over Hong Kong on Monday, which also massively helped out Afghanistan. They had their moments in the four-wicket loss to Scotland as well, earlier in the tournament.
PNG, meanwhile, finished at the bottom of Group A. They did trouble Ireland in a four-wicket loss, with Tony Ura’s 151 propping up the batting, but that apart, they didn’t provide much competition to their opponents.
Nepal will, therefore, have realistic hopes of making it to the seventh-place play-off. However, they will need all departments to click in tandem. So far, Paras Khadka, the captain, has pulled his weight, top-scoring with 189 runs in four matches. Rohit Kumar is their next highest scorer with just 94.
With the ball, they have fared better, with Sandeep Lamichhane (seven wickets in four matches) being supported ably by Basant Regmi (six in four).
Against Hong Kong, despite Khadka falling for 11, Rohit and Sompal Kami put on an unbroken 89-run stand to ensure the target of 154 was crossed. This after the bowlers had combined to bundle Hong Kong out for 153. Khadka will hope for more of the same from his wards.
As for PNG, their hopes will rest on another blinder from Ura. That said, Norman Vanua (eight wickets in four) and Alei Nao (six in four) have been among the wickets, and if they can strike early and expose Nepal’s middle order, this might be a closer-run thriller.
Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal): Nepal’s biggest rising star, Lamichhane has troubled batsmen considerably so far with his leg-spin – his economy rate of 4.21 is commendable. PNG’s batsmen, apart from Ura, have visibly struggled in the tournament, and Lamichhane will be hoping to weave his magic yet again.
Tony Ura (Papua New Guinea): Since that 151 against Ireland, Ura scored an important 37 against Windies, but has failed to power his side to victories. That said, he remains PNG’s best hope, and if Nepal want to snuff their opposition out early, they will need Ura’s scalp first and foremost.
The rain that lashed Harare last week seems to have relented, and though some clouds are expected, the sun is expected to shine through them. So far in the tournament, the Old Hararians surface has proven helpful for batsmen – more of the same is expected.
Nepal: Paras Khadka (c), Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee (wk), Lalit Bhandari, Shakti Gauchan, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Gyanendra Malla, Dilip Nath, Rohit Kumar, Lalit Rajbanshi, Basant Regmi, Anil Sah, Sompal Kami, Sharad Vesawkar
Papua New Guinea: Assadollah Vala (c), Charles Amini, Sese Bau, Mahuru Dai, Kiplin Doriga, Jason Kila, Vani Morea, Alei Nao, Damien Ravu, John Reva, Lega Siaka, Chad Soper, Tony Ura, Jack Vare (wk), Norman Vanua