Kushal Malla makes history by becoming youngest batsman to score ODI half-century as Nepal beat the USA
Ecstatic crowd in Kathmandu watch 15-year-old overtake the likes of Tendulkar and Afridi during his team's World Cup League Two victory
Kushal Malla’s selection for his one-day international debut came at such short notice that he did not even have time to tell his schoolmates he was playing.
By the end of it, he had played a central role in bringing his country their first ever ODI win on home soil, held a new world record, and his name was being mentioned alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Shahid Afridi.
Aged 15 years and 340 days, Malla became the youngest batsman to score a one-day international half-century.
That beat the record set by the player he replaced in the Nepal side, Rohit Paudel, against UAE in Dubai last year. Next on the list are Tendulkar and Afridi.
His 50 was vital, too. It swung a match that has seemed lost when Nepal were 49-5, back towards them.
In the end, they ended up beating the United States by 35 runs to claim a first win in the Cricket World Cup League Two.
Given that he subsequently sent down 10 overs of thrifty left-arm spin for 30 runs and a wicket, it was clear Nepal have yet another rich young talent in their midst.
All of which represented a fine return for a teenager who really should be at school.
“For the past three or four months I have had to miss school, but whenever I get the time during the camp I have tried to continue my studies,” Malla said. “One good thing has been that the teachers at school have been supporting me.
"They have been telling me to try to study from time to time, and if there’s any material I need, they will help provide it.”
Malla’s innings showed maturity beyond his years seeing as he arrived at the crease when his side were in the mire.
Between him and Binod Bhandari, who also made a half-century, they hauled Nepal to 190 all out.
Karan KC, who took four wickets, and Nepal’s battery of spinners were too much for the touring side, who were shot out for 155.
The win was ecstatically received by a packed crowd in Kathmandu, who spent large parts of it chanting the name of their youthful new hero.
“When people are there supporting you, you feel as though you want to do well so they will carry on supporting you for the upcoming games, too,” Malla said.
“I feel like they are my guardians. Whenever you make a mistake, they are there to guide you and support you. It makes you want to do your best batting and bowling.
“I wasn’t nervous, and at the stage [I went in] I knew I needed to make a good score for my team.
“To be playing in our home ground, in our home country, to make this record is a wonderful moment for me.”
Even in defeat, the United States players were able to appreciate the boisterous atmosphere.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Ian Holland, who led the resistance for the USA with a fine innings of 75. “They are a really passionate crowd, and it is an amazing experience for me. Generally, cricket crowds are reserved, stay seated, and well mannered, and I love this.
“It was brilliant. I just love seeing the passion, and it was something different. You could feel that it gives them a lift.
“At the same time, you are just trying to focus on the ball as a batsman. The harder you watch the ball, you don’t hear the noises when the ball’s coming down.
“I might be afterwards, between balls, and you can have a bit of a smile because it is a great experience.”
Updated: February 8, 2020 06:57 PM