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Nepal captain Paudel: 'We were very close but a little far'

He says Nepal will be on the right side of results if they get more exposure against the best sides in the world

After his team came agonisingly close to a historic win and what would have been their first against a Full-Member side, Nepal captain Rohit Paudel has asked for more exposure against top teams. Nepal were on top of their modest chase of 116 against South Africa until Tabraiz Shamsi returned to claim two wickets in the 18th over, which began with Nepal needing 18 from 18. Anrich Nortje then conceded eight off the 19th and Ottneil Baartman defended seven in the last over, which included the tense situation of Nepal needing two from the last ball, but they couldn't get even one, which would have taken the game to a Super Over.
"I am very proud of the unit, especially the way we bowled and batted, I'm very proud of that," Paudel said at the presentation. "We were very close but a little far. In crunch moments we did well, but the way we fought was very good. If we get more exposure regularly then next games we will be on the other side [of the result]."
Nepal's stunning performance was scripted by spinners Dipendra Singh Airee and Kushal Bhurtel, who claimed seven wickets between them for just 40 runs in their eight overs. Sandeep Lamichhane, who was playing his first game of the T20 World Cup 2024 after missing the USA leg, bowled four frugal overs for just 18 runs, giving away only one boundary. In all, the Nepal spinners bowled 14 overs for 75 runs.
When asked if Nepal had expected the spinners to get so much assistance from the pitch, Paudel said: "Yeah, when we saw the wicket yesterday, we thought it would be on the slower side. Eventually when we were bowling I thought the wicket was helping the spinners and then we introduced Bhurtel and we carried on with the spinners." Bhurtel claimed 4 for 19, which included the big scalps of Aiden Markram and Henrich Klaasen as well as those of Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa played just the one frontline spinner - Shamsi came into the XI for Keshav Maharaj - and bowled six overs of spin overall, with two from Markram. Shamsi came into the attack after seven overs, by which time Nepal were 34 for no loss. Markram later admitted South Africa should have picked another spinner on a track on which the ball was stopping, turning and bouncing. Markram brought himself on after the 13th over.
"We have a good pace attack and you want to back that," Markram said at the presentation. "I thought if we got the ball in the right areas, there could be something in the wicket and I felt like it was challenging for the batters. Looking back in hindsight, we should have probably picked an extra spinner on this wicket. I didn't think it'd spin that much. But the pacers kept us in the game and a lot of credit has to go to them tonight."
South Africa's start wasn't promising either, after they were put in to bat. They managed just 38 for 1 in the powerplay and struck only two sixes in their innings. Only one batter - Tristan Stubbs - scored at over a run a ball and had it not been for his unbeaten 27 off 18, South Africa might have finished well below 115. While acknowledging the tough conditions, Markram also praised the Nepal bowlers.
"I think it's two things: first and foremost, the way [Nepal] bowled it made it really tough for us throughout the game," he said. "You have to give them a lot of credit. They put us under a lot of pressure, and it shows the quality they have in their change room. If you mix that with maybe not enough conviction in our plans and a slight lack in intensity, you can get stuck, and that's what happened tonight. Like I said, there'll be a lot of learnings and we'd assume Caribbean conditions might be a little similar moving forward so it's about backing plans that we develop and pretty much be at ease with whatever comes after having solid plans."
South Africa finished on top of Group D with four wins out of four and will be in Group 2 in the Super Eight, along with USA, West Indies and one out of England and Scotland from Group B.