CHITTAGONG - Nepal were brave, but the sheer will of 11 Bangladeshi cricketers desperate to make a mark in their first major tournament at home, backed up by 18,000 Chittagongians cheering as one, was simply irresistible. Despite coming up against a much stronger bowling attack, in the highest-pressure situation of their lives, Nepal’s batsmen refused to choke, or throw it away, but only managed 126 for 5 in their 20 overs. After a good start was secured, Bangladesh made light of the chase, cantering home in 15.3 overs with eight wickets in hand.
When Bangladesh put Nepal in, Mushfiqur Rahim would have known that dew would play a huge part in the second half of the match. With Hong Kong’s 153 being quite comfortably chased down by Afghanistan earlier on the day, it would take a total of 170 or thereabouts to put Bangladesh under appreciable pressure.
Nepal’s openers wanted to make the field restrictions of the initial overs count, but Mashrafe Mortaza used changes of pace cleverly, rolling his fingers on the ball in an attempt to keep the batsmen honest and Al-Amin Hossain let it rip, bowling flat out, mixing short-pitched stuff with searching full deliveries.
Sagar Pun and Subash Khakurel looked to be aggressive, but they simply could not connect cleanly enough often enough to get any sort of fluency going. With only 38 on the board at the end of the Power Play overs, both openers were back in the hut and it was left, once again, to Gyanendra Malla and Paras Khadka to consolidate.
Malla, who batted quite beautifully in Nepal’s first match, against Hong Kong, could not replicate the effort and was trapped in front by a delivery that Al-Amin Hossain sent down with the perfect seam position, the nip-backer beating bat to crash into pad.
Bangladesh sensed an opportunity and tried to get Khadka to commit to an error, but the Nepal captain showed he was made of sterner stuff. Accepting that this was not a situation in which he could go hammer and tongs, Khadka worked the ones and twos with the straightest of bats, only allowing himself the freedom to play the big shots when a rank bad ball presented itself.
Sharad Vesawkar used the calm created by his captain to cut loose, sneaking boundaries over fine-leg and through backward point with élan. The partnership had built to 85 when Khadka (41) moved across his stumps to scoop the ball over fine-leg, but was beaten for pace by Mortaza and had his stumps flattened.
Vesawkar (40) hung on till the end, being run out off the final ball of the innings, but even that pushed the score to only 126. Bangladesh’s openers roared out of the blocks, Tamim Iqbal and Anamul Haque deciding that stand and deliver was the best policy. Sompal Kami, Nepal’s teenaged quick, was guilty of being overexcited, and each time he banged the ball in, it disappeared. Anamul smacked the fifth ball of the innings for a flat six over square-leg and before the crowd could finish showing their appreciation, a cracking cut flew in front of point.
Tamim, never one to be left out when the going is good, took on Khadka, launching him over the long-on fielder stationed on the fence, and then pinged one straight back down the ground. The 50 partnership came off only 36 balls, and the writing was on the wall for Nepal at an early stage. Tamim (30) gave Nepal its first breakthrough, charging Basant Regmi and trying to hit the left-arm spinner out of the ground, only to spear a catch to short third-man.
Anamul kept going, and should have been able to walk to a half-century when he got into a horrible mix up with Sabbir Rahman, the two batsmen standing side by side at the non-striker’s end as the bails came off at the other. While the two argued over who was dismissed, the on-field umpires consulted with the third umpire and Anamul (42) had to walk off, as unhappy as the prospect made him.
With the dew making it increasingly difficult for the spinners to grip the ball and really give it a rip, Shakib Al Hasan (37*) and Sabbir (21*) helped themselves to some big hits, and Bangladesh romped home with eight wickets in hand and more than four overs to spare.
S Khakurel c Razzak b Farhad 8
Sagar Pun c Shakib b Al-Amin 12
G Malla lbw b Al-Amin 13
P Khadka b Mashrafe 41
S Vesawkar run out 40
B Bhandari not out 0
EXTRAS: (lb3, w9) 12
TOTAL: (5 wkts; 20 overs) 126
FOW: 1-19, 2-38, 3-39, 4-124, 5-126
BOWLING: Mashrafe Mortaza 4-0-23-1, Al-Amin Hossain 4-0-17-2, Farhad Reza 3-0-27-1, Shakib Al Hasan 4-0-22-0, Nasir Hossain 3-0-22-0, Abdur Razzak 2-0-12-0
Tamim Iqbal c Sagar b Regmi 30
Anamul Haque run out 42
Sabbir Rahman not out 21
Shakib Al Hasan not out 37
EXTRAS: (lb2) 2
TOTAL: (2 wkts; 15.3 overs) 132
FOW: 1-63, 2-79
BOWLING: Sompal Kami 2-0-21-0, P Khadka 3-0-23-0, S Gauchan 4-0-40-0, J Mukhiya 2-0-16-0, B Regmi 3-0-14-1, Sagar Pun 1.3-0-16-0
MAN OF THE MATCH: Al-Amin Hossain (Ban)
UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (Pak), R Tucker (Aus)
TV UMPIRE: S Ravi (Ind)
MATCH REFEREE: J Srinath (Ind)