Netherlands 168 for 3 (O’Dowd 90, de Leede 41*, Lamichhane 2-60) beat Nepal 167 (Paudel 33, van Beek 4-24, Vikramjit 2-20) by seven wickets

Netherlands progressed to the Super Sixes by bouncing Nepal’s batters, and later belting their bowlers in Harare. The loss knocks Nepal out of the tournament, and also confirms West Indies and Zimbabwe’s progress into the next stage. Put in to bat in bowler-friendly conditions, Nepal folded for 167 after surviving new-ball jitters but being hit hard by a middle-overs crisis, initiated by Vikramjit Singh and furthered by Logan van Beek.

Van Beek found movement in the air and off the seam early on. He got Aasif Sheikh chopped on in the third over of Nepal’s innings, but Kushal Bhurtel and Bhim Sharki trundled their way through despite getting beaten and miscuing shots, especially ones played with the horizontal bat.

Bhurtel welcomed Vikramjit with a cut that went through cover for four and a punch through mid-on for three. But Vikramjit found his lengths to firstly dry up the runs, and then dismiss Bhurtel and Aarif Sheikh in the 15th and the 17th over, respectively. That started Nepal’s slump from 46 for 1 to 91 for 5, and they could not recover thereafter.

Extra bounce and seam movement helped Vikramjit have Bhurtel and Aarif caught behind and at gully, respectively. Sharki, who saw out the new ball with cautious batting, started aiming for the boundary after Bhurtel’s wicket. He mistimed a hook, and almost cut Bas de Leede to the fielder. But Sharki’s luck ran out when he sliced Clayton Floyd’s first ball to point.

Kushal Malla’s characteristic positivity brought about the first six of the game when he slog swept Floyd over midwicket in the 21st over. But his aggression could not overcome Aryan Dutt, who bowled back-to-back maidens and then got Malla mistime a slog to long-off.

However, captain Rohit Paudel pounced on Aryan in the 29th over, taking him for a six and a four. That led to van Beek’s return, and the full-fledged deployment of the short-ball tactic. Paudel and Dipendra Singh Airee were out to the pull in the space of two overs, as van Beek doubled down.

Despite Sandeep Lamichhane impulsively making room to open up gaps and Gulsan Jha working the ball around to build a steady 32-run stand for the eighth wicket and thus give Nepal some respectability, it was only a matter of time till the bouncers fetched Netherlands wickets. This time it was de Leede, who got Jha and Karan KC in the 42nd over. Lamichhane got a couple of streaky boundaries before also succumbing to the pull. He was the last man out; Nepal’s innings closed out with 33 balls to spare.

Max O’Dowd started the modest chase with a clear plan: get across the line and hit the spinners to the leg side. He swept and pulled Lalit Rajbanshi, Lamichhane, and Airee to end the first powerplay with Netherlands up to 58 without loss.

Vikramjit offered steady support at the other end, and by the time Lamichhane trapped him lbw in the 13th over, Netherlands had already broken the back of the chase with an 86-run opening stand.

Two overs later, Lamichhane having Wesley Barresi out reverse sweeping to short third led to a minor slowdown. But new batter de Leede settled in thereafter, and combined with O’Dowd to rotate strike and find regular boundaries to take Netherlands close.

With ten runs left to win, O’Dowd was knocked over for 90 by Jha. Despite O’Dowd missing out on what would have been a match-winning first ODI century, Netherlands had no trouble powering through to a seven-wicket win with as many as 137 balls remaining.

Ekanth is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo


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