A fortnight ago I previewed the then upcoming associate event as one to have not been short of drama, excitement, upsets and lots of climatic heat. All came to pass besides the weather of a city with an average temperature of 75°F (24°C) but instead had the nimbus clouds take center stage in the Windhoek skies all tournament. The cruelty and joys of the World Cricket League (WCL) surfaced yet again in a tournament that served up a cock tail of results but will mostly be remembered as one of numerous near misses, could haves, should haves and would haves.
The successful attempt for batters to run past each other into different creases to acquire an extra run or the mere saving of a single run in the field is how much careers can be defined by. Having been on either side of a single run victory, some of our careers have been defined by the two run loss we suffered against Papua New Guinea at WCL 2 in Dubai we can hardly say we recovered from. Yet again this event brought out the unanswered question of how player careers, livelihoods and nations structural development rest on five round robin games played at the WCL. A question not many will answer in affirmative but even the dissenting answers have had to comprehensively solidify their structures to retain attained status.
After starting off in cruise position with a massive win against Kenya, UAE lost their next two fixtures to Canada and Nepal which then presented a question of bounce back ability. Up against a team looking for a win to keep their campaign alive, Oman didn’t roll a red carpet out for UAE after bundling the strong UAE batting line up for a paltry 160 not many would have thought would be enough to defend. Oman 110 for 5 would have had Rohan Mustapha’s troops pondering the long flight back home until the Valentines gift presented in the Ajay Lalcheta runout that reignited UAE hopes sparking a tournament changing bowling effort for UAE from Mohammad Naveed. This win resuscitated the UAE campaign setting them up for a semi final against Namibia they prevailed in to earn a spot in the event final and more importantly place at next month World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe. But without a shade of doubt,UAE had a "General George Patton" in Rohan Mustapha that played the tournament of his life to steer his team to the promised land.
The darlings of associate cricket have been the epitome of enjoying the joyful side of the dreaded WCL line between joy and despair. Nepal have literally built a “Lannister” castle on this side of the line with a campaign heavily characterized by winning very close games. As I had credited earlier, the passion, hard work, belief and desire displayed by this team is the perfect ingredient to success in close games. The ability to exploit any trace of weakness in oppositions the second they smell blood has been that mark of the Nepal campaign for a team that has enjoyed bowling first four out of five times in the round robin stage. With their backs against the wall against Namibia both with bowl and bat, they managed to maneuver a way past the hosts with a two run wicket win. Then the miracle of all WCL miracles happened in the direct semi final against Canada in a 7 hour game that Nitish Kumar’s lads had dominated for 6 and a half of those hours till the “30 minutes of Karan KC”. Last WCL Div 2, in Namibia, at the same Wanderers cricket ground, this same man destroyed Canada in a thirty minute spell with ball in hand picking up 5 for 26. Three years down the road, the “ghost” of Karan KC returned to haunt the north Americans yet again this time with bat in hand with a match winning and nation defining knock he will forever be remembered for to send Nepal to the World Cup qualifiers next month and possibly One Day International status. Jai Nepal
Following the discrepancy between the ICC official team lists that included Christi Viljoen and Brendenkamp but were a no show at the event, Namibia started the event on an even worse note by losing a nail biting game to Nepal. For a team expected to dominate in home conditions not much was going to script as not once but twice was their game against Kenya washed out questioning if the Namib desert gods had abandoned the home nation so close to earning a spot in the World Cup qualifiers, a question answered with Namibia 65 for 7 chasing what at the time seemed like a daunting task to overcome against Oman. A 92 run partnership between Erasmas and Smit literally kept the hosts’ tournament alive. Going by the last WCL Div two events Namibia has finished runners up in, this proud nation will be disappointed with this fourth place finish and will regard in as a step back.
As mentioned in my predictions, the success of Canada’s campaign relied heavily on how they did in the first game against Oman and show up the under dog north Americans did. A great start picking up an authoritative 8 wicket win was a clear indication of Canadian intentions at the tournament. With a tournament going to script for the entire event picking up much needed wins, Canada found themselves at the final huddle in the middle of an ODI status dream achievement nearly complete. Like candy taken away from a toddler, Canada had thirty bad minutes against Nepal in what was a direct shoot out for qualification to the World Cup in Zimbabwe. Heart break for Canada it was at the end of this torrid half hour but the finer details of a single run in the WCL came to light yet again as if Canada had saved just one of the eight runs Nepal required in the final over, result would have been a tie with both Nepal and Canada earning slots for the Zimbabwe qualifiers. Certainly sad not have completed the Cinderella story, Canada can hold their heads up for the tournament they had.
A team full of confidence considering recent rise through the WCL divisions, Oman lost the wrong game. The heavy loss to Canada meant Oman were the first team to get the calculators out as they were not only seeking wins but positive net run rate very early on in the tournament. In a massive game against Namibia, Oman had nearly executed the "Italian Job" asking the right questions of a strong Namibia batting line up being rattled by left arm fast Bilal Khan. Namibia requiring another century run partnership with just 3 wickets at hand, Oman were huge favorites to pull off the upset. However the wait for the eight wicket took close to two hours arriving at a point which the chase was nearly complete. To sum up Oman’s campaign, lady luck just never sang.
My biggest worry came to pass as statistics count for absolutely nothing at WCL a fact i can testify to considering our horrible at the WCL Div 3 last year. The Kenyan unit at this event was experienced and shared memories of wins in the World Cricket Championship against Namibia, UAE and Nepal to ride on. After falling to a heavy defeat to UAE on match day one, the African nation could not afford any more slip ups in their hunt for ODI status that has eluded them for close to a decade. Known for finding the right gears when the stakes required, this time round the stakes got higher by the day but the gear lever just did not move an inch. After surviving what looked like a likely heavy defeat to Namibia when the clouds let loose with the hosts in cruise position, Kenya got the refresh button it needed but that came with a herculean task of having to play five tough games in a row. In a WCL classic of such fine margins with Kenya looking like they had pocketed their first win of the tournament against Nepal, the final ball of the game was hit into the deep to Kenyan Vice Captain Shem Obado who unexpectedly misfielded the defining ball allowing for the completion of a second Nepal run earning the latter a much needed win and bragging rights. Its games like these one never sleeps after with the thought of what could have been if you saved a single run in the field. Well its back to the dreaded drawing board for Kenya to restore lost glory.