At 4:57 pm on a late Wednesday afternoon, Canada offspinner Nikhil Dutta was in the midst of flying from the bowling crease to the third man boundary, doing a Rashid Khan-style airplane celebration after getting Aarif Sheikh – Nepal’s last recognized batsman – out stumped. Behind the dark clouds of thunder and lightning in the backdrop of Wanderers Sports Club, the sun appeared to be fading on Nepal’s tournament.
With 51 runs needed off 47 balls to win, No. 10 Karan KC – who was yet to score – was about to be joined for Nepal’s last stand by 16-year old Sandeep Lamichhane, who had earlier sustained a right knee injury that played a part in not bowling his full quota of overs.
What followed was one of the most miraculous endings to an ICC tournament match at any level as Karan struck an unbeaten 42 off 31 balls, including eight off the final two balls, to seal one of the greatest victories in Nepal’s history. Canada, who started off the tournament with three straight wins, needed just one more over either Namibia or Nepal to clinch a spot at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. Instead, they fell short in the most gutwrenching circumstances imaginable.
The first sniff of hope that Nepal had during the final wicket stand came at the end of the 44th over against Dillon Heyliger. The medium pacer sent down a full delivery that Karan drove through the line 30 yards over the short straight boundary at long-off and into the Wanderers car park. The equation was reduced to 40 off last 36 balls, but it was a warning shot across the bows that Nepal was not about to lie down.
Indeed, Karan continued stirring the chase back to life. At the other end, Lamichhane clung on by any means necessary. A poke at Dutta two balls later produced an edge that flew between keeper and slip. When he got on strike to Cecil Pervez, Lamichhane faced a bouncer barrage before finding a single that led to another boundary from Karan to end the 46th.
With three overs left, the darkness cleared and the sun began to shine once more on the pair in the middle. Karan heaved Pervez over deep midwicket in the 48th and then clattered another six back over Satsimranjit Dhindsa’s head to bring the equation down to 13 off eight. Canada had kept a slip in to Lamichhane but spread the field for Karan, a strategy that proved costly when he edged the next ball just wide of a diving Hamza Tariq behind the stumps for four.
A single to end the over left Karan on strike needing eight off six. Nepal’s squad, which had been scattered between the dugout and the boundary, nestling into superstitious positions, became hoarse in their support. Canada’s bench, which had come to the boundary edge 20 minutes earlier with a Maple Leaf flag unfurled ready to charge the pitch, now sat silent.