Nepal batting fails to hit the heights
Nepal have hit some heights recently - coming from "the roof of the world" should mean they can handle them - but they were unable to sustain the dizzying altitude achieved by winning their first World T20 match as they came up against the hosts, Bangladesh, who had the bit between their teeth during an eight-wicket win.
Victory against Hong Kong, although by a huge margin, had been founded on steady batting followed by disciplined attack with the ball against nervy opponents. Bangladesh were always going to ramp the pressure up a few notches, with reputation as well as qualification on the line, and although Nepal put in another solid display after being inserted they were unable to achieve the required upwards curve at the end of their innings.
Nepal's coach, Pubudu Dassanayake, was understandably pleased with the way his team had acquitted themselves in their first encounter with a Test-playing nation but regretted that the batting fell away again, this time to more costly effect.
"They went through the plans well," he said of his players. "We wanted to be 90-100 for not too many down in the 15th over. They did what we asked of them. But what we lacked was a good finish. If we had got 140-145 things might have been different. Overall I'm very happy with the quality of shots they played and the aggression that they showed. It was a good game for us, despite the result."
Nepal were 86 for 3 after 15 overs, with Paras Khadka and Sharad Vesawkar well set after coming together with the score on 39. Fourteen runs came in the 17th over but they otherwise struggled to find the boundary, a situation compounded at the end when Al-Amin Hossain conceded just a single and a wide from the final six balls.
As happened two nights ago, Khadka was forced to rebuild after Nepal's openers perished for insubstantial scores. Dassanayake said that Al-Amin's dismissal of No. 3 Gyanendra Malla for 13 was key and backed Subash Khakurel and Sagar Pun to continue developing into an effective partnership at the top of the order.
"In the last two games I've been happy with the way Subash and Sagar shaped up," he said. "We've had an issue with the openers for a while but we started believing in them and they have begun to play as a pair, as a partnership. They are showing the quality, but still they have to get more runs. That will come. Paras is leading from the front and showing his quality at this level. We missed Gyanendra a bit today, when he was dismissed early. He's another one who can score at this level."
Nepal first planted a flag in world cricket by winning the Plate Championship at the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, with a team featuring Khadka, Vesawkar, Malla and spinner Basant Regmi, who claimed 1 for 14 from three tidy overs against Bangladesh. All of Nepal's players are homegrown, in contrast to many Associates, and Dassanayake praised the system that has underpinned their impressive rise through the tiers of ICC competition, culminating in what has been a hugely impressive debut World T20 appearance.
"Looking at Nepal, the national team and the youngsters, they're very sound technically," he said. "The most important part is that they train very hard and play very hard. That is what we are, our brand of cricket. If you saw the qualifiers in Dubai, we fought in every game to the last ball. Top-quality fielding, the bowlers stuck to plans, the batsmen were well aware of what was needed in a chase, how to plan an innings. Today was a bit different, because of the occasion of playing against a Full Member country."
Dassanayake stressed Nepal would not be looking beyond Afghanistan, their final opponents, but qualification for the Super 10 is still not beyond them, should Bangladesh suffer a shock against Hong Kong on Thursday. The way the hosts clinically disposed of Nepal suggests that is unlikely, with a significant swing in run rate required, and the coach was happy that his side had prevented the contest becoming a mismatch.
"Batting 20 overs comfortably against a top quality team that is also the home side is an achievement," he said. "We did have a few plans that we could not execute during the bowling part of the game but this is part of the learning process. The boys have shown that they are up to it."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here