Fourteen associate teams will battle in the Twenty20 Qualifiers beginning from today to cement their spot in the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in next March in India.
Nepal, who last time around made the final cut, hope to repeat the feat and be one among those six nations who will qualify for the T20 Cricket World Cup.
Nepal has been drawn in Group A to compete against the co-hosts and favorites Ireland. Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, USA, Namibia and Jersey complete their group. Group B, meanwhile, comprises co-hosts Scotland, Afghanistan, Netherlands, UAE, Oman, Kenya and Canada.
Top four teams from two groups will progress to the next round. The group toppers will automatically qualify for the World Cup. Six teams from two groups will then play further play-off matches and four from these teams will secure their spot in the World Cup.
The tournament will also be the first time when Nepal play their official Twenty20 matches against Ireland, USA, Namibia and Jersey in the qualifier. The Nepali side has already faced Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea earlier but will lock horns with the other teams for the first time in the T20 format.
Here is a brief look at Nepal’s opponents in the group round.
Nepal will clash against tournament favorites Ireland in the group stage. Studded by the likes of big-hitting William Porterfield, George Dockrell and Paul Stirling, who ply their trade in county cricket, Ireland will be one toughest nut to crack for the Nepali side. So far, the two sides have not faced in any official matches. Nepal has played against Ireland once in the practice match of the previous edition of the T20 World Cup where it was defeated by five wickets.
Nepal will begin their qualifier campaign against USA on Friday. USA, a familiar opponent in ODI matches, has never met Nepal in official T20 matches. The only match was in another practice T20 match before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh where USA had gained upper-hand by five wickets.
Nepal, however, has an advantage over the American side in the ODI format. In 10 matches, Nepal had won five times to USA’s three. Two other matches were cancelled. USA was the same side which Nepal had defeated while claiming the trophy of World Cricket League Division 4 and Division 5. Nepali side can cherish on the absence of star batsman Steven Taylor and the dwindling form of the team due to the dispute with world cricket governing body, ICC.
Hong Kong is a familiar T20 opponent for Nepal. It also has a better record in T20’s against the side. The two sides have met six times and Nepal has defeated Hong Kong in four occasions. Nepal had reached the T20 World Cup defeating Hong Kong by five wickets in the play-offs of the last edition of the qualifiers. Nepal had also secured an impressive 80-run victory in their opening World T20 match against Hong Kong in Bangladesh. Hong Kong, however, cannot be undermined as they were the side that later on defeated Bangladesh by two wickets before crashing out of the tournament.
Namibia will be another side which Nepal will play for the first time in T20s. In two ODIs played between the two sides, both sides have one victory each. Namibia’s form is stronger and consistent in ODIs than in the T20s. They were defeated by Scotland (by 6 wickets) and Canada (by 74) runs in the warm-up matches of the T20 qualifier.
Papua New Guinea
Nepal’s match against PNG in the group stage of the qualifier will be their fourth T20 match overall. Two of the three previous matches have gone to Nepali side while PNG won in one occasion. The recent of those matches was in 2013’s edition of qualifier where Binod Bhandari’s 51 not out from 23 balls cruised the side past the total of 140 runs with 10 balls remaining.
PNG, though, are an emerging side since then. A 10-run victory in the warm-up match against Kenya clarifies their intention.
One match played and defeated. That’s the record of minnows Jersey against Nepal. That only match was in Kathmandu during the WCL Div 5 tournament where Nepal crushed Jersey by six wickets. Jersey’s warm-up matches also have not gone as per their plan. They were defeated by Afghanistan by eight wickets and crushed by Scotland by 69 runs in two warm-up matches.