Bangladesh felt relieved as they beat Nepal comprehensively by 44 runs to qualify for the final in men’s cricket event of the 13th SA Games at the Tribhuvan University Ground in Kathmandu on Saturday.
The Bangladeshi side had to fight both on and off the field to secure the win, which now set-up a gold medal-deciding match for them against Sri Lanka at the same ground on Monday.
Bangladesh had to win this game if they were to avoid the hassle of run rate in their last match of the league phase against Sri Lanka today to confirm their place in the final.
But the win did not come very easy as the hosts, who were also in a must-win situation, changed the timing of the match at the eleventh hour, citing flight schedule of Bhutan team.
Bhutan were originally scheduled to play their match against Maldives on Sunday, but with no flight available for them in next five days, their match was brought forward by a day.
But Maldives refused to play in the early morning, the only available slot for their game against Bhutan, and Nepalese organisers were prompt to take the advantage, asking Bangladesh to play from 9:00am.
Bangladesh were aware of the danger of playing in the early hour, which was always going to give underdogs Nepal some advantages. Naturally, they refused to accept the new schedule, which threw the whole competition into a chaos.
‘They [the Nepalese organisers] were ready to listen to Maldives but not us though we are a Test-playing country. But there was no reason for us to agree,’ said manager Habibul Bashar.
‘When we were also adamant about not playing the game at 9:00am, they finally agreed to delay the match by 45 minutes and you can see how it helped us,’ said a relived Bashar.
The condition was still wet and sun was also playing hide-and-seek when the match started and much to their worry of the Bangladeshi side they lost the toss and was asked to bat first.
Former Nepal captain Parash Khadka reduced Bangladesh to 16-3 in almost no time, by removing Mohammad Naim (six), Soumya Sarkar (six) and Saif Hasan (naught) cheaply.
Sakipper Nazmul Hasan rebuilt the innings with 43-run fourth wicket stand before Afif Hossain raised the tempo of the innings with some exquisite shots.
Nazmul and Afif ignored the loud cheering of some 5,000 Nepalese fans, who spent Rs 300 each to watch the game, forging a 94-run stand for the fifth wicket, guiding Bangladesh to 155-6.
Afif was spectacular between the duo making 52 off just 28 balls but Nazmul took the honour of player-of-the-match for his carefully crafted, unbeaten innings of 75 off 60 balls.
Nepal were never in the game after left-arm spinner Tanvir Islam and pacer Suman Khan reduced the side to 12-3 three inside four overs.
The live commentators of the game were more entertaining than Nepal’s batting as they described some of their batsmen as ‘world-class’ and also compared one with Sachin Tendulkar at one stage.
The commentary ended abruptly after Nepal lost their sixth wicket which made a late fight back all but impossible. Suman, Tanvir, Mahedi Hasan and Soumya Sarkar each claimed two wickets as Nepal finally ended their innings with 111-9 to concede a big defeat.
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