Sports

Nepal meet Hong Kong with diminishing hopes

- ADARSHA DHAKAL, Kathmandu

Nepal are taking on Hong Kong in their last match of the ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday hoping for combinations of favourable results to go their way in a bid to realise dreams of meetings sub-continental archrivals India and Pakistan.

Nepal are fourth in the standings with just four points from as many matches. Defeating third-placed Hong Kong (five points) alone will not be enough for Nepal to grab the top two position and play for the title. The combination of their win should go hand in hand with Oman ’s big-margin victory over United Arab Emirates (UAE) to have any realistic chance of making it to the final.

Oman currently lead the points table with seven points but their place in the final is not yet safe with all four teams still in the race. A defeat against the UAE and Hong Kong’s victory over Nepal, meanwhile, will throw both Nepal and Oman out of the final contention.

Only the winners of the final will make it to the Asia Cup slated for September 15-26 in the UAE. The winners will join India and Pakistan in Group ‘A’ of the Asia Cup. Group ‘B’ consists of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Only a big margin victory over Hong Kong and Oman’s thrashing of the UAE can possibly put them in the final to have a shot at the Asia Cup. However, with a batting lineup that is hardly delivering and bowling attack not performing to its potential, Nepal’s chances of beating Hong Kong with a huge margin looks extremely bleak, let alone reaching the final.

Nepali batsmen had built on to a respectable 221 against Oman in the tournament opener but erratic bowling and fielding let them down as they went on to lose the match by seven wickets. In the second game against the UAE, Nepal had restricted the Emirates at 212-8 at one stage. But the UAE tail wagged to post 254 before bundling out Nepal for just 176 in 48.5 overs.

Nepal did manage to remain in contention with victories over Malaysia and Singapore in the next two matches but in the process their entire batting lineup struggled against tournament’s lowest-ranked opponents. Hong Kong are one of the familiar opponents for Nepal in Associate cricket having played them on multiple occasions across different formats.

The last time the two teams met in a 50-over duel was during the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers early this year in Zimbabwe where Nepal won by five wickets, a victory that ultimately helped them secure the coveted One Day International status. Nepal appear set to make one change against Hong Kong from the same side that played against Singapore on Sunday.

Seamer Lalit Singh Bhandari is likely to make way for fellow paceman Karan KC, while left-arm spinner Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi is likely to retain his place after returning with the figures of 3-27 against Singapore for a performance that earned him the man-of-the-match. The pressure will be on Nepal’s pace attack which has not been able to provide early breakthroughs against relatively stronger teams.

Hong Kong will heavily rely on their experienced duo of Anshuman Rath and Babar Hayat as both the batsmen have regained form. Rath and Hayat, who played the Everest Premier League Twenty20 in Nepal last year, had hit centuries against the UAE that earned them a huge 182-run to maintain a healthy net run rate in the table.

A victory over Nepal will put them in the final on net run-rate, irrespective of the result between Oman and the UAE match.

Published: 2018-09-04 10:20:21