ACC Fast Track Countries Tournament - Bittersweet Victory For Nepal

Nepal overwhelmed the UAE in front of a 5,000 strong crowd at the Tribhuvan University International Ground. They completely outplayed the UAE to win by 172 runs yet lost out on the chance to qualify for the ICC Intercontinental Cup as Asia's representatives. The margin between success and despair: 0.5 points, the equivalent of just 2 runs.

Had the UAE's last-wicket pair of Zahid Shah and Rizwan Latif not made any more than 6 runs in their stand, Nepal would have gone through. Zahid Shah's six over mid-wicket to take the UAE past the magical 75 run mark and the extra 0.5 point, was an astonishing shot in the circumstances.

The UAE, fielding a weaker team than normal, were struggling throughout and were unable to impose themselves in their normal fashion. The bowlers lacked penetration and the batsmen, the indomitable Arshad Ali apart, were strangely defensive.

Nothing should be taken away, however, from the Nepali players who overcame the relative failure of their opening batsman Paresh Lohani (the tournament's current highest run-scorer). He made just four runs in the match. Nepal showed themselves to be a truly cohesive competitive unit. Shakti Gauchan and Sarad Vesawakar made 195 runs between them and were instrumental in setting up Nepal's push for victory.

Knowing that nothing less than a victory would do, and roared on by a partisan crowd, Nepal fought hard. Their bowlers were admirably backed up by their fielders. They had a plan - bowl on or around off-stump, challenge the batsmen with every ball - and they stuck to it admirably.

UAE lost a battle in Kathmandu, and if they persist in underestimating their opponents, may just lose some more. Nepal can look forward to a chance to further sharpen their competitive edge should they meet the UAE again in the Fast Track Final. With Malaysia yet to play any of their games, and both Singapore and Hong Kong capable of an upset, the Fast Track Countries Tournament is very open this year.

Filed May 11 2005