USA and Nepal controversially win promotion
Crowd trouble marred a resounding victory for USA over Nepal at Kirtipur, and controversially ensured that USA and Nepal finished one and two, respectively, in the table, securing them promotion to Division 4. Nepal suffered their first defeat of the tournament and if crowd disturbance had not reduced the USA target to 157 from 46 overs, Nepal would probably have missed out on promotion. With the top three teams all level on eight points, Nepal narrowly stayed ahead of third-placed Singapore only by Net Run Rate (NRR).
The USA victory was crafted from a fine bowling effort that choked Nepal's innings. 37-year-old Kevin Darlington was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3 for 23 from ten overs that included a remarkable four maidens. Nepal had stumbled to 80 for 6 after 31.2 overs but a partnership of 62 between Gyanendra Malla and Mahaboob Alam restored a semblance of fight. After Alam had brought up his 50, both batsmen fell in the 45th over, Alam run out and Malla lbw to Lennox Cush. It was always going to be a tricky total to defend, and despite an early wicket from Alam, Nepal were never really in the contest.
The successful USA chase was built around a calm 42 from captain Steve Massiah and a dashing, unbeaten 57, which included four sixes, from Sushil Nadkarni. The Nepali crowds have been such a prominent feature of this tournament, turning up in vast numbers to cheer on the home team, but today their enthusiasm and disappointment with Nepal's effort overcame them.
"It's a huge relief for us to win promotion," said an ecstatic Massiah after the game. "Having suffered the way we did when we last played in an ICC development tournament two years ago, crashing out to Jersey, it's been something I've wanted the side to achieve since then. I feel like I've got the monkey off my back.
"We executed our game plan brilliantly today, especially after suffering such a defeat at the hands of Singapore it was important that we bounced back in the way we did today," he added. Massiah, 30, is already looking forward to the World Cricket League Division 4, a group that includes Tanzania, Italy, Argentina and the Cayman Islands.
"I'm already excited about Division 4 not only because it's being played in Italy but also because it's a huge opportunity for us to move forward and get back into Division 1," he said. "We've played Cayman Islands and Argentina before and we've won against them every time so I'm feeling fairly good already for August."
Nepal captain Paras Khadka, although unhappy with his side's weak performance against USA, was relieved that they had done enough to earn promotion from Division 5. "The loss we didn't expect it to happen - we really thought we could have done better - more than anything else though we wanted to qualify," he explained.
"We'd played exceptional cricket in the last four matches and we've lost today but we've qualified and for us that is most important thing. We've struggled previously in events like this and we need to succeed at them for Nepal cricket structure to continue to grow and for us as a side to progress.
"I'm really looking forward to Division 4 in Italy. We've never faced any of the teams apart from, of course, the USA. On paper, I would say we're probably the strongest two teams in that division now so here's hoping both the USA and Nepal make it to Division 3."
Singapore missed out on promotion on NNR, despite storming past Jersey to record their fourth win of the tournament at Bhaktapur. Singapore's NRR was 0.004 behind Nepal's and if USA had beaten Nepal two balls quicker than they did, it would have been Singapore celebrating. Buddika Mendis's sterling allround performance was almost carried Singapore to promotion. After Jersey chose to bat first, Matt Hague's fifty, with contributions from Ryan Driver, Samuel de la Haye and Peter Gough set them up for a decent total before a lower-order collapse saw the side dismissed for 192 in the 49th over, with Mendis taking three wickets.
He continued the good work when Singapore batted, his unbeaten 85 powering their run chase as they eased past Jersey's total in 26 overs. He added 63 in under nine overs with Chetan Suryawanshi, who hit three fours and three sixes in a 22-ball 40 before giving Ben Stevens the first of his three wickets. Pramodh Raja and Mulewa Dharmichand came and went in quick succession, both falling to Stevens, but Munish Arora partnered Mendis in an unbroken 96-run partnership for the fourth wicket as Singapore cantered to a seven-wicket win, which should have been enough to win them promotion. For Jersey the defeat dumped them to fifth place and means they will be relegated to Division 6 next year.
Jersey coach Craig Hogan did not hide his disappointment after the side's poor showing at the tournament. "We absolutely got what we deserved," he fumed. "We didn't do anything together for 50 overs during the tournament.
"We couldn't bat well for 50 overs and you can't continuously lose your last six wickets for 20 or 30 runs and you can't go for 50, 60 or 70 runs in the power play. There are fundamental basic things that we haven't done and we have got what we deserved. We have to work a bit harder and value our wickets a bit. When things don't go your way you just have to scrounge and fight and we didn't do that."
Bahrain waltzed to their second successive victory and ensured their survival in Division 5, by crushing stragglers Fiji by 95 runs in their bottom-of-the-table match at Lalitpur. A colossal allround effort from Tahir Dar underpinned the crucial victory, with him first injecting momentum into a solid batting effort with a 30-ball 54 before taking 4 for 19 to seal the result. Choosing to bat first after winning the toss Bahrain slipped to 21 for 2, including losing Abdul Majeed for a duck, before steady contributions from the middle and lower order laid the foundations for Dar's late charge.
Chasing 276 looked beyond Fiji from the start as they lost three wickets in the first two overs, with Adil Hanif taking two in his first over. A handy 72-run partnership between Peni Rika (29) and Sakaria Lomani (40) brought some respectability to the Fiji total before Dar's strangling left-arm spin claimed the final four wickets and secured the match. Fiji have struggled to compete throughout the tournament, and after five straight defeats, they have been relegated to Division 6.
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