Nepal advanced to the T20 World Cup 2024 after making it into the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Asia Region qualifier by beating the United Arab Emirates by eight wickets on Friday.
This is the second time Nepal has reached the T20 World Cup after their first appearance in 2014 in Bangladesh.
In the match held at Upper Mulpani Ground on Friday, Nepal met the target of 135 runs in 17.1 overs, losing only two wickets. Opener Aasif Sheikh remained not out with 64 runs off 51 balls for his third T20 fifty, including seven fours and one six. Captain Rohit Paudel also remained not out with his quick-fire 20-ball 34 knock that included two fours and two sixes.
Openers Kushal Bhurtel and Sheikh gave Nepal a good start by sharing 26 runs in three overs. Bhurtel added 8-ball 11 before being caught out by Muhammad Waseem off Spinner Nilansh Keswani at long-on.
Sheikh then paired with Gulshan Jha for a 41-run stand for the second wicket. Jha was bowled out by Basil Hameed in the third ball of the tenth over after making 22 runs off 24 balls. Captain Paudel and Sheikh put on an unbeaten 68-run partnership for the third wicket to steer Nepal to the World Cup.
‘Dream comes true’
After leading Nepal to the World Cup, opening batter Sheikh said it was a dream come true moment for Nepal. “Every team’s ultimate dream is to play the World Cup. It is a dream come true moment for us. I am happy to perform today. I planned to hold the wicket and hit only to the boundary balls, which paid off.”
The result meant Nepal avenged their loss in the T20 Global Qualifier 2022 and the Tri-Nation Series final held at TU Cricket Ground on October 18.
Earlier, spinners dominated Nepal’s bowling onslaught as the UAE were limited to a score of 134/9 in the allotted 20 overs. Kushal Malla was the pick of the bowlers for Nepal with three wickets, conceding only 11 runs in three overs for his miserly spell. Leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane claimed two wickets, spending 14 runs from his four overs. Captain Paudel and Pacer Sompal Kami took one wicket each for Nepal.
Vriitya Aravind scored the highest 64 runs off 51 balls for the UAE. Captain Muhamad Waseem (16-ball 26), Asif Khan (14-ball 13) and Alishan Sharafu (14-ball 16) were the other two-digit contributors for the UAE.
Nepal's skipper Paudel said both the bowling and batting department contributed today. “We planned to restrict the opponent below 140/150. Bowlers executed well to our plan. By dismissing the opening two wickets, Sompal Kami set up the momentum for us. As a bowling unit, every bowler contributed today. In batting, Asif Sheikh played his best innings. Gulshan Jha coming one down also played well. Overall, the batting unit also performed their best today.”
He added that the return of Dipendra Singh Airee from injury also boosted Nepal’s morale. Airee missed the group stage match of Nepal due to injury.