Nepal v Zimbabwe, U-19 World Cup Group D February 7, 2006

Nepal take Zimbabwe to the wire

Zimbabwe 201(Higgins 74, Khadka 4-28) beat Nepal 199 for 9 (Chaugai 78, Cremer 3-36) by two runs

A relieved Sean Williams chats to the media after Zimbabwe's narrow win © Cricinfo
Zimbabwe held on by their fingernails to put themselves on the verge of a Super League quarter-final berth, but they came close to becoming the competition's first significant casualty. Nepal should have won after reaching 150 for 2 in the 38th over chasing 202, but a series of rash shots meant Kanishka Chaugai's fine 78 went to waste as seven runs from the final over proved out of reach.

It was Zimbabwe's legspin duo of Ryan Higgins - following a vital 74 to resurrect their innings from 90 for 6 - and Graeme Cremer who pulled the match out of the fire. Cremer brought them back onto contention with two wickets in two balls, breaking the partnership between Chaugai and Paras Khadka which was steering Nepal towards their target. Khadka played a huge fresh air shot and was stumped by miles, then Prem Chaudhary edged a cut first ball.

Higgins, though, claimed the vital scalp, bowling Chaugai attempting an ambitious sweep. The Nepal captain could hardly tear himself from the crease and it is easy to understand why. He had done more than anyone else to put his country within touching distance of taking a memorable victory with a calm and assured innings.

"My form is good but it means nothing if we lose," he said following the presentation. Under-19 teams will make mistakes, but if they learn from them the process is working. Today, it appeared that Nepal had heeded the lessons of the England match and Chaugai epitomised this.

After launching the innings with his customary flourish of searing cuts and drives, he switched into accumulation mode. As his second-wicket stand with Sharad Vesawkar passed fifty Chaugai was content to pick up the singles when Sean Williams set his field back to protect the boundary. All it needed was the batsmen to keep the cool, but as Chaugai admitted, "We got out trying to play some big shots, including me, and we couldn't quite get there in the last over."

In the end it was the extra experience of the Zimbabwean team that counted. Cremer has played six Tests for Zimbabwe and finished with figures of 9-0-86-3 against South Africa at Cape Town, so is used to dealing with pressure situations. However, even Cremer, with his international experience, was affected by the tension and was not best pleased that a team-mate almost collided with him when he held the caught and bowled off Gyanendra Malla.

As the margin grew narrower the arm waving became more furious and there were one or two rumbles of discontent from the boundary fielders as runs were scampered. Following the match Williams was a mightily relieved captain. "I wasn't too confident at all to be honest, I thought the pitch would have been a little bit lower than it did. It was the wrong toss to lose and our boys did well to come back and win."

Williams was one of the early casualties with the bat, as Nepal held sway after choosing to field first. There was swing with the new ball and at 56 for 5 a humiliating total was looming. Higgins, though, set about the task of building respectability with a level head and straight, adding 96 with Glen Querl. Higgins used the long handle to good effect, showing the benefits of playing out a one-day innings however dire a position may seem.

If it had appeared a bleak day for Zimbabwe with the bat, it had nearly got to the point of no return in the field. They dominated less than half the match but, at the vital times it was they who held their nerve.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo