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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

'We are alive in the series': Nepal teenager's heroics with the bat give UAE plenty to ponder

The hosts again under-performed as coach Dougie Brown demands his players be honest in their assessment of performances ahead of deciding ODI on Monday

After UAE beat Nepal in Dubai on Friday, a picture emerged on social media of students surreptitiously watching the livestream of the match on a smartphone in a classroom, while the lesson carried on regardless.

There was little need to wag school, lectures, or work as the touring side evened the series up with a thumping, 145-run one in the second match at the ICC Academy on Saturday.

The fact the deciding match of the three-game, Anib Challenge Series will take place on Monday, though, means work output could be low in Kathmandu.

Classes might be cut, offices might have to deal with acute absenteeism, and lecturers might find it a struggle retaining the attention of their students. Let’s hope the Emirates Cricket Board’s stream will be able to cope with the demand.

Given the characters involved in Nepal’s pioneering one-day international team, it is no wonder the craze for the game is quite so frenzied back at home.

The match-winners in the second one-day international, for example, were a 16-year-old batsman who broke a record held for the past 23 years by Shahid Afridi, an 18-year-old leg-spinner of increasingly global renown, and a 22-year-old seam-bowler who, a day earlier, had been the team’s best batsman.

At 16 years and 146 days, Rohit Paudel became the youngest player to score a one-day international half-century. It broke the record previously set by Afridi, on his way to that portentous century against Sri Lanka in Nairobi in 1996.

Paudel’s 58-ball 55 at the ICC Academy felt crucial to the outcome of the game, as UAE’s attention in the field drifted as aimlessly as those students in their lectures in Nepal.

It meant the away side posted a challenging total of 242-9 from their 50 overs. It was far too good for a UAE side who under-performed with the bat, alarmingly for the second day running.

“It feels really good, especially because we lost the match yesterday and we had been looking forward to this one,” Paudel said. “We are alive in the series. Everyone was positive we could bounce back and win it.”

Paras Khadka, Nepal’s captain, had been optimistic after the opening day, less in spite of the fact his side had been bundled out for a meagre 113.

“I think it was a fantastic partnership between him and Aarif [Sheikh, who put on 82 for the sixth wicket with Paudel],” Khadka said.

“It was a very calculated innings, and I’m delighted we could come back after yesterday’s defeat. Even yesterday, we felt we could have won the game.

“When we came out today, we thought that if we bat the first 10 overs, we could set up a good score.”

In reply, the UAE crumbled. Sompal Kami, the man of the match for his new-ball bowling, reduced them to 29-4 in six overs, then later returned to take his fifth, and the UAE’s final wicket as they fell for 97.

In between times, Sandeep Lamichhane, the teen leg-spin maestro, took 4-24 against a bewildered home batting line up.

The absence of Rohan Mustafa and Rameez Shahzad, the two linchpins of the batting line up who are suspended for this series, was keenly felt.

“Ultimately, what none of us need is for us to hear excuses for performance,” Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, said.

“Saying, ‘Oh, it kept low,’ or ‘Oh, it was going down leg-side’ - nobody is interested, nor should we be interested. That is not the culture we have.

“When you have had a couple of bad days, which we have, you need to be as honest as you can be, and say, ‘I made a mistake today’.

“If you do that, and own your performance, and are responsible for it, you have a pretty good chance of knowing the direction in which you need to go to change your performance. We can do it.”

Updated: January 26, 2019 05:51 PM

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