Scotland were awarded the inaugural League 2 trophy in Kathmandu today in recognition of their unassailable lead at the top of the table, but it was Nepal that were celebrating a fourth straight victory in the competition after besting the champions in the final ODI of the trilateral series.
Skipper Rohit Paudel and folk hero Karan KC’s unbroken 75-run stand for the ninth wicket saw the hosts come back to clinch a dramatic two-wicket win and keep their hopes of a podium finish in the League alive. A typically aggressive half-century from newly-minted opener George Munsey coupled with dogged contributions from Matt Cross and Brandon McMullen down the order saw Scotland post 212 after being invited to bat. With spinners increasingly coming to dominate late in the series, it would prove a more than competitive total but not enough to deny Nepal a clean sweep of the tri-series – thanks to Paudel and Karan’s dogged rearguard partnership.
Scotland’s openers weathered an early scare to add 42 for the first wicket after Sompal Kami dropped a return chance off first ball to reprieve Coetzer. The introduction of spin had an immediate impact however as Sandeep Lamichhane struck in in his first over to trap Coetzer in front for 22. Munsey went six over later, bowled round his legs for a 50-ball 60, and Lamichhane struck again next ball Berrington plumb to a legbreak for a first ball duck. Kushal Malla trapped Chris McBride on the sweep soon after before Tomas Mackintosh became Lamichanne’s fourth victim reversing to backward point to leave the Scots in trouble at 118-5. Cross and McMullen dug in however, adding 57 in what would prove a crucial 6th wicket partnership. Cross would fall for 42 thanks to a lighting run-out from DS Airee coming in from cover in the 36th over, and two balls late Karan KC took Michael Leask’s off stump to claim the first of his three wickets, including that of McMullen for 31 as Scotland subsided to 212 all out with four overs unused.
Nepal stumbled out of the gate in pursuit as Mark Watt again struck with his first ball, Bhurtel half forward and stuck in front of leg on the seventh ball of the innings. Though the rest of the top order got starts, none would keep Paudel company for long, Aasif Sheikh chipping McMulllen to Coetzer at mid on in the seventh, Gyanendra Malla also falling LBW to Watt shortly after the powerplay and Kushal Malla losing his off stump to Chris Greaves in the 18th over to leave Nepal 4 down with just 60 on the board. From there things went rapidly downhill for Nepal as Paudel struggled o keep his side in the game, striking a defiant half-century even as wickets continued to fall at the other end.
With Paudel’s next four partners all falling for single figures, the game looked all but gone at 138-8 by the time Karan joined his captain at the crease. The pair stuck to their task however, taking advantage as growing Scotland’s growing frustration was reflected in increasingly loose bowling. With bad balls and free hits going for boundaries time never became a factor in the chase, and as the partnership progressed the impossible slowly became inevitable. Fittingly it was the captain that hit the winning runs, glancing Safyaan Sharif fine for four to finish unbeaten on 95*.
Scotland can take home some silverware in consolation, having completed their run in the League to top the table with 24 wins. Nepal have two more trilateral series to come, the first in Dubai next week against the UAE and Papua New Guinea, and the last against the same opposition at home next month. They currently sit in sixth place with 12 wins, but five wins from their final eight matches would see them overtake the USA and thus secure their ODI status, while if they were to extend their streak still further they remain in contention for third place and direct progression to the World Cup Qualifier.