Nepal qualified for the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup 2024 on Thursday thanks to a thrilling 7-run win over United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the final match of the Asia Regional Qualifier, thereby sealing their place in next year's showpiece global event in Sri Lanka.
Both teams had enjoyed comprehensive victories en route to the final match, but it was the young stars of Nepal that came out on top to claim the solitary spot open to Asian teams through the regional qualification pathway, earning their first appearance at the U19 Men's World Cup since 2016.
The dramatic tie saw both teams wrestle for control throughout before Nepal snatched victory thanks to a stunning penultimate over hattrick from left-arm spinner Dipesh Kandel.
Batting first, Nepal made a stuttering start, losing three wickets early to UAE's frontline bowlers. Captain Dev Khanal (51 from 84 balls) came to the crease under pressure but stabilised the team in the middle overs before the UAE bowlers, including the impressive Dhruv Parashar (three wickets for 18), fought back once more to bowl the visitors out for 191.
UAE's opening batters made a solid start in reply, but soon lost three wickets of their own in quick succession, including captain Aayan Khan. Ethan D'Souza (50 from 66 balls) steadied the ship with a measured half-century and looked to have set the foundations for victory, before Kandel returned to storm through the lower order batters, securing a famous victory with a hattrick in the 49th over to skittle UAE for 184.
Kandel earned the Player of the Match Award for his heroics, with figures of five for 31 from his ten overs.
The victory sees Nepal become the twelfth team to confirm their spot at the event, alongside 11 nations that automatically qualified by virtue of being the best-placed Full Member teams from the previous edition in 2022 when India claimed the trophy in the West Indies.
The ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup 2024 will see the world's most exciting young talent take to the field, and the event has a rich legacy of forging the future stars of the men's game. The fifteenth edition of the tournament sees it return to Sri Lanka for the first time since 2006.
With four further Regional Qualifiers to follow in the coming months, attention now turns to the East Asia Pacific Region, where seven teams head to Australia aiming to be the next team to confirm their passage through to the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup, including previous qualifiers Fiji, Japan, PNG and New Zealand.
( 449 Words)