The agony and ecstasy of World Cricket League

After a rocky start in the field, Imran Haider's prayers were answered with three wickets Peter Della Penna

At 3:15pm local time on Monday afternoon, UAE coach Dougie Brown was standing alone on the east side cover boundary at Affies Park, far away from the UAE squad tent. The clock was ticking on UAE's time as an ODI nation.

Entering the day at 1-2, UAE and Oman were effectively playing an elimination playoff: the winner would stay in the hunt for a shot at progressing to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, the loser knocked out.

With Oman 89 for 3, having just clattered legspinner Imran Haider for two boundaries in a 10-run 26th over in a chase of 160, the professional livelihoods of Brown's players - even his own job status - were under threat.

Two days earlier, Brown had spoken about players sticking to regimented processes that, if consistently followed, will lead to the desired winning results. But that can only be done by the players inside the boundary. Outside the ropes, standing in the shade of the bleachers, Brown had all the time in the world to ponder existential thoughts.

"This form of cricket is brutal," Brown said on Monday. "Every single ball that is bowled or run that's scored, wicket taken, has got a knock-on consequence to not just the game but to people's careers. I don't think people actually appreciate that everybody here is playing for their career, coaches included.

"I've never played in a World Cup final but I can only imagine what the coaches and players are actually going through when they get to that point because ultimately it's the same emotion. So yeah, it was a huge emotional rollercoaster today."

Minutes after that costly Haider over, a rip occurred in the space-time continuum of UAE's cricketing universe, and that of the Oman squad too. Ajay Lalcheta, fairly new to the crease, set off for a questionable run from the non-striker's end and was sent back by the well-set Jatinder Singh.

UAE captain Rohan Mustafa circled around the ball before collecting to throw. Two outcomes were possible, creating divergent futures for both sides: miss the stumps and the clock begins ticking faster for UAE. Hit and the moment may be frozen in time, a line of demarcation tracing back to joy for UAE and heartbreak for Oman.

At 4:15pm, the post-match presentation pop-up stand was in the midst of being set up. UAE's players had their sunglasses on to shield the dry sun from their eyes. Oman's players had their sunglasses on to hide the watery red in theirs.

Oman's journey from WCL Division Five was one of the best stories in world cricket over the past 20 months. The satisfaction experienced at each step of a grueling pathway to three consecutive promotions is a feeling that only Afghanistan can identify with. They had been hoping to make it four and continue replicating their fellow Asian side's Cinderella rise to ODI status. But the clock struck midnight for Oman about eight hours early on Monday afternoon.

Adjacent to Affies Park, a similar drama was unfolding in the game between Nepal and Kenya. After starting their campaign with a thrilling one-wicket win, Nepal were left needing two runs off two balls on Monday.

A chaotic run-out had just dismissed Rohit Paudel for 47 on the fourth ball of the last over in a chase of 178. Sompal Kami had been the culprit calling for a non-existent run, which had Paudel slamming his bat on his pads and walking off the field. Sompal missed the fifth ball and for the first time since Nepal were 82 for 5, Kenya looked like favorites.

That they still had runs to defend was due to the lower-order heroics of Shem Ngoche in the first innings. Kenya had a bright start until Sandeep Lamichhane bulldozed his way through the batting line-up. When the legspinner came on in the 17th over, Kenya were 62 for 0. When he took his fifth wicket off his final delivery in the 45th over, Kenya had fallen to 139 for 8.

But in came Ngoche at No. 9, smashing Sompal for six to end the 47th and again to begin the 49th on his way to 23 not out off 15 balls. Fate would have the two meet again on the final ball. A win for Nepal would put them at 3-1 and in pole position for one of two promotion berths to move on to Zimbabwe. A loss for Kenya would eliminate them from contention.

Nelson Odhiambo charged in and his attempted yorker wasn't full enough, giving Sompal room to get under and drive the ball between long-on and deep midwicket. Karan KC, who came in off strike after Paudel fell, got an excellent start making the first run and there was little doubt he'd make it back for the second. Sompal's trek back to the striker's end for two wasn't as assured. If Ngoche fielded cleanly, he had a genuine chance to beat Sompal with a relay to the wicketkeeper to secure a tie.

But in his haste to get a throw off, Ngoche fumbled the ball before stumbling past it completely. He slid to a stop on his knees, as Nepal's bench stormed the field, first to swarm Karan at the non-striker's end before moving on to piggyback Sompal with glee.

"In the past, we were always on the other side of these finishes, the wrong side," Nepal vice-captain Gyanendra Malla said. "This week, we are on the right side."

Meanwhile, a glum Ngoche had his face buried in the turf. Dhiren Gondaria, who had been running in from long-on, kept walking past Ngoche, his face an emotionless blank. Gurdeep Singh trudged from square leg to pick up the ball sitting on the turf behind Ngoche before joining Kenya's handshake line as they waited for Nepal's celebrations to break up. After a few moments, Ngoche was able to bring himself to kneel on his left knee, arms crossed over his right, gazing back at the pitch with lips quivering, trying not to break down in tears.

While both teams were heading back to their change rooms, Ngoche, 40 yards away, was only just getting back on his feet. There was no Andrew Flintoff or Grant Elliott to console him. Ngoche began a long and lonely walk back to the pavilion, pausing briefly at the boundary rope to look up at the skies.

This is the agony and the ecstasy of the World Cricket League.