There is an interesting post on Sandeep Lamichhane’s Facebook timeline from September 2015. “Congrats Sushil Kandel dai and Dipesh Shrestha dai for being selected in ICC U19 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS.. I will miss u alot,” he wrote. Obviously, the youngster had missed out on playing the Under-19 World Cup qualifier. One of his friends then commented: “The day will come ,, u will also make us proud,, don’t worry, mero vai.”
Five months later, that day has come.
In a crucial Group D match against Ireland at the Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah on Saturday, the young leg-spinner took five wickets, including a first hat-trick by a Nepalese at the ICC Under-19 World Cup, to lay the foundation of a historic eight-wicket victory.
By virtue of this result, Nepal advanced to the quarterfinal of the event. Even though they have fared well in the plate group on previous occasions – they in fact won it in Sri Lanka in 2006 – it is the first time that Nepal have made the elite Super League knockouts.
While they had defeated New Zealand in the opening game on Thursday, it was still an almost a must-win match for Raju Raijal & Co. What must have fired them up was that they had beaten Ireland twice in Malaysia last year. Irish captain Jack Tector won the toss and chose to bat. On a track that assisted spin, they were off to a cautious start, adding 39 run for the first wicket in 14 overs, when off-spinner Sunil Dhamala got rid of Stephen Doheny.
Left-arm spinner Sushil Kandel and Lamichhane then dismissed Jack Tector and Gary McClintock in quick succession to leave Ireland reeling at 48/3.
Wicket-keeper batsman Lorcan Tucker, who hit a half-century against India in the last match, and Adam Dennison then stage a brief recovery. It looked like they would take Ireland to a respectable, even competitive, total with some resolute batting. But that was when Lamichhane, who came back for his second spell, struck. With runs not coming in, Tucker looked to sweep the leg-spinner but couldn’t connect the ball. He was caught at mid-wicket. After this breakthrough, Ireland collapsed like a house of cards. The well-set Adam Dennison went hard at the next ball only to edge it to the keeper. And then Fiachra Tucker was bowled through gate to bring up the hat-trick. In the next over, Lamichhane accounted for William McClintock to complete his five-for. It was some determined batting by Harry Tector, who top-scored with 30, that took Ireland to 131 for nine in 50 overs.
There was a hint of nervousness when Nepal began their modest 132-run chase. The Irish left-arm pacer Joshua Little, who took three wickets against India the first game, rattled the Nepali dugout right away when he fired one onto the pads of opener Sandeep Sunar. The umpires finger went up and Nepal were zero for one. However, Yogendra Singh Karki and Sunil Dhamala saw off the early threat and went on to add a half century partnership. After Dhamala fell to Garry McClintock, Karki and vice-captain Aarif Sheikh batted freely and overhauled the total with 24.3 overs to spare. Karki finished at 61 not out. But there was only one hero on the day – Lamichhane.
He finished with figures of 10-0-27-5, becoming the third Nepal bowler, after Rahul Vishvakarma (6 for 3 against Papua New Guinea in 2012) and Bhuvan Karki (5 for 21 against Namibia in 2012), to record a five-wicket haul in Youth ODIs.
Nepal will now take on India in a match that will decide whom the two teams will play in the quarterfinals. Among other results on Saturday, Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan and Pakistan tharshed Canada to make the last eight.
Brief scores: Ireland 131/9 in 50 overs (Harry Tector 30 not out; Sandeep Lamichhane 5/27, Dipendra Airee 2/18) lost to Nepal 132/2, 25.3 overs (Yogendra Karki 61, Aarif Sheikh 31 not out) by eight wickets.