Two days after the Pakistan-India match was wiped out in Pallekele, a similar rain threat loomed over India’s first international cricket match against Nepal at the same venue.
Monday’s rain was not as persistent, and by 9.30 p.m., India’s target was reduced to 145 runs in 23 overs. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill then exhibited brilliance with an unbroken opening partnership of 147 runs to spoil Nepal’s celebration and advance India to the Super Fours round. Pakistan have already qualified from this division for the next round.
Aasif Sheikh’s sturdy fifty gave the Nepalese supporters plenty to applaud about in the afternoon, especially.
Aasif’s innings was bookended by Kushal Bhurtel’s fluent strokeplay in the powerplay and Sompal Kami’s powerful strikes in the death overs.
When Aasif reached his fifty off 88 balls in the 28th over, the Nepalese spectators began to cheer. The Nepali rhythms that were performed at the venue added to the merriment, with Rohit Paudel’s team eventually scoring 230 runs on a two-paced pitch.
After a prolonged rain break, however, the Rohit launched their opening salvo against Nepal. He skimmed, slog-swept, and reverse-swept his way to a fifty off of 39 balls. Gill, who had struck Kami for three fours in a single over prior to the rain break, rode in Rohit’s slipstream for the majority of the resumption.
When Gill reached his own fifty, India was only 29 runs away from victory. Rohit and Gill completed the task in 17 deliveries with ten wickets remaining.
In the early exchanges, India were not as dominant. In the first five overs, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, and wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan fumbled three catches, allowing Nepal’s batsmen to gain ground.
The Nepalese batsmen were more at ease against quick bowling, lashing lazily in the ‘V’ and also launching audaciously in the ‘V’ behind the wicket.
Bhurtel, who was granted two pardons, punished India with his aggressive intent and initiative. His strike of Mohammed Siraj over square leg and out of the ground was arguably the best stroke of the day. Siraj continued to hit the ball into the ground and continue to surrender runs.
India’s first wicket was taken by all-rounder Shardul Thakur in the final over of the powerplay, but he was lackluster during his four-over stint.
Aasif displayed tenacity, which Nepal’s batsmen lacked in Multan during their Asia Cup debut against Pakistan. Siraj then returned to the field with an old ball and dismissed Aasif for 58 off 97 deliveries.
Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, both left-arm spinners, assisted India in seizing control. In ten overs, Jadeja’s turn – or lack thereof – proved difficult to get away from, as he took three wickets for forty runs.
Not until his eighth over did Nepal score a boundary against Jadeja. Kuldeep did not take a wicket on Monday, but he was nearly as economical as Jadeja with his stock ball and wrong’un on a favorable pitch.
Dipendra Singh Airee and Kami then demonstrated their ability to compete with India’s superstars. Airee contributed 29 runs off 25 balls, while Kami contributed 48 runs off 56 deliveries.
Mohammed Shami bowled Nepal out for 230 runs in 48.2 overs, his first ODI appearance since March, and only because Bumrah was unavailable on Monday.
The combination of Gill’s composure and Rohit’s fury then thwarted Nepal’s attack in a brief pursuit.