Nepal moved a step closer to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe with a nailbiting three-wicket win off the final ball over Kenya at Wanderers Sports Park. At 82 for 5 chasing 178, and with their batting core of Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla and Sharad Vesawkar back in the pavilion, few would have bet on Nepal's historically shaky middle and lower order to salvage a victory. But an 87-run sixth wicket stand did just that, propelling them to their third win. Nepal now need just one more over Canada on the final day of the group stage to advance to next month's qualifier.
Nepal appeared set to pay the price for a subpar fielding performance. Irfan Karim was dropped in the first ball of the match, as the Kenya wicketkeeper went on to top-score with 42 off 100 balls. Alex Obanda took the lead in Kenya's opening stand while Karim settled down, smashing 41 off 46 balls to take their side to 65 for 1.
But the legspinning sensation Sandeep Lamichhane put another stamp on a dominant tournament with the ball - he's currently the leading wicket-taker with 14 scalps - dismissing Obanda in his first over for the first of his five wickets. Lamichhane's five maidens nearly ground the Kenya innings to a halt, but after surviving his spell, Kenya's tail added 38 off the final five overs.
Emmanuel Ringera gashed the top order for wickets in each of his first three overs after taking the new ball for Kenya, but Khadka once again rescued Nepal from embarrassment, holding firm with 42 off 44 balls. However, when he and Vesawkar fell, the inexperienced duo of Aarif Sheikh and Rohit Kumar stepped up with an improbable partnership, taking the target down to 10 off the final 10 balls when Sheikh fell slogging a skier in the circle off Shem Ngoche's spin.
Paudel was then runout to a poor call from Sompal Kami, leaving Nepal with two to get off the final two balls. Kami swung and missed at the first, but drove the final ball from Nelson Odhiambo to deep midwicket. The pair took on Ngoche for a dicey second, and a fumble from the fielder as he charged ahead put Kenya out of the promotion hunt after their third straight loss.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna
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