Nepal slip to gut-wrenching loss

Shamsi was the star performer for South Africa. PC – BCCI

It was a heartbreak for Nepal in St Vincent as they came very close to upsetting the apple-cart against South Africa. Unfortunately, Gulshan Jha couldn’t score two runs off the last two balls as they slipped to a gut-wrenching one-run loss in a T20 World Cup game. If they had emerged triumphant, there would have been a frenzied atmosphere right through the streets of Nepal, but it wasn’t to be.

So, how did the last three overs pan out? At 98 for 3, after 17 overs, Nepal had the upper hand. At that stage of the game, Tabraiz Shamsi prised out Dipendra Singh Airee and Aasif Sheikh to leave the match in balance. The delivery to Aasif, in particular, was a peach as Shamsi imparted enough revs on the ball and got it to turn to castle the batter. Incidentally, the spinner was rightly adjudged the Player of the Match for his game-breaking performance.

In the very next over, Kushal Malla fell to Anrich Nortje. The Asian nation, however, didn’t give up as Sompal Kami thwacked Nortje’s back of the hand slower one into the stands. In the final over, Nepal needed a further eight runs to create history. O Baartman began that over in a brilliant fashion by cracking the code of bowling the wide yorker. 

The young Gulshan, though, gave a fitting riposte by moving across towards the off-stump to collect a boundary and a double. At that moment,  Baartman once more showed the value of all his experience at the domestic level by pulling the length back. So, could have Gulshan done anything different? Yes. When he missed the cut while playing the first of the two deliveries, he could have pinched a bye. But he didn’t.

The last ball, too, he was a tad slow to set off for a single. Even after he took a few steps, Gulshan seemed to be easing towards the non-striker’s end. Meanwhile, Quinton de Kock, the ‘keeper, effected the throw. The resultant outcome was the ball deflected via Gulshan’s back and then towards Heinrich Klaasen. The agile cricketer threw it underarm and effected the run out. 

For large parts of the game, Nepal were in the ascendancy. Airee and Bhurtel, the two parsimonious spinners, had kept a tight leash on the scoring rate. The twosome also bagged seven wickets between them for the cost of only 40 runs to leave South Africa in all kinds of trouble. On a slow pitch, only Reeza Hendricks (43 runs) and Tristan Stubbs (27 off 18 balls) crossed the 20-run mark for South Africa. It has to be said that South Africa’s much-vaunted batting unit has struggled in this competition to notch up scores of substance in tricky conditions for batting.

When it was Nepal’s turn to bat, Aasif (42 runs) and Anil Sah, batting at No. 4, were the mainstays. The pair put on a stand of 50 for the third wicket. When Anil was dismissed by Aiden Markram, the South African captain, Nepal were still in a position of strength. Just that it didn’t turn out to be a fairytale story.