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U-19 World Cup: Nepal stranded in stands, then in the middle

Chasing Nepal's 211/9, Bangladesh were 98/4 before skipper Mehidy Hasan and Zakir Hasan fifties took them home.

U-19 World cup, U-19 World scores, U19 World cup updates, Bangladesh win, Nepal loss, Ban vs Nep, Bangladesh, Nepal, cricket news, Cricket Bangladesh will face the winner of Pakistan-West Indies quarter-final. (Source: ICC)

Two matches were played at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium at Mirpur. Nepal fought valiantly, but lost both. First, let’s talk about the second, which was played in the stands. Hundreds of Nepalese fans had attended the Group D match against India on Monday, and they had promised they would show up in bigger numbers for the Under-19 World Cup quarterfinal against Bangladesh as it would be a historic occasion — Nepal have never reached this far in the elite group of the competition. There were close to a thousand Nepalese fans, singing their victory song ‘Raato ra chandra surya’ and waving their red flag. But they found themselves outnumbered ten to one.

It was Friday, your weekly holiday in Bangladesh, and their team was playing its first match in Dhaka. Faces painted in green-and-red, the fans turned up in their thousands. The Youth World Cup had come alive. Shouts of “Nepal, Nepal” would be responded by “boo ha, boo ha” from the home team’s supporters. Which may sound a bit offensive, but it was generally a light-hearted banter between the two sets of passionate fans. It’s not easy being an away team supporter in this cauldron — in fact, it’s quite intimidating. But the brave Nepalsese held their ground.

Nepal won the toss and elected to bat. After his team had made short work of Nepal’s 168-run total, India U-19 coach Rahul Dravid had visited the opposition dressing room and consoled them. The former India captain basically told them that had they batted a bit more sensibly and made 220-230, the chase would have trickier. Nepal appeared to have learnt their lessons well.

The first two wickets fell cheaply to some hostile bowling by the Bangladeshi medium pacers, Mehedi Hasan Rana and Mohd Saifuddin, but captain Raju Rijal and Sandeep Sunar rode out the storm. Recently, there have been doubts as to how old Rijal actually is, Under-19 or above-25, but the Nepal captain showed that mentally at least he is far more mature than what his age on that much examined passport is. He didn’t let the controversy affect him and played a fluent 71-run knock, with deft touches and sweet timing.

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“(The controversy had affected me a) little bit, yes, but I forgot about it in the dressing room and played my natural game,” he said.

Nepal ran hard between the wickets, and in the process of stealing quick runs got run out too. Both Rijal and Sunar were dismissed in this fashion, as were two other batsmen, and from threatening to make a 240-plus target, Nepal settled for 211 in 50 overs. But they must have been buoyed by the fact that Pakistan had defended 212 on this ground the other day. Moreover, Bangladesh’s opening in this tournament had been a disaster.

Nepal sniffed an opportunity and came out charging. Their tight bowling and fielding meant runs were coming at a premium. Their spinners were accurate, especially the off-spinner Sunil Dhamala. In the 29th over, Bangladesh were four down for 98 and an upset loomed on the horizon. But soon after, Rijal missed a stumping opportunity. Captain Mehedi Hasan Miraz was on 25 when he danced down to hit leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane out of the park. He was beaten completely, but Rijal couldn’t collect the ball. Miraz (55* off 65) wouldn’t need a second invitation to put the match out Nepal’s reach. With Zakir Hasan (75* off 77), he added 117 runs for take the team into the semifinals, and pretty much ensured that an even bigger crowd would be here when they play England/Sri Lanka next week.

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Brief scores: Nepal 211/9 in 50 overs (Raju Rijal 72; Mohammad Saifuddin 2/38) lost to Bangladesh 215/4 in 48.2 overs (Zakir Hasan 75 n.o., Mehedi Hasan 55 n.o.; Sunil Dhamala 2/33) by 6 wickets.

First published on: 05-02-2016 at 07:48:04 pm
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