© AFP (File Photos)
At the moment, Nepal stand sixth in the ICC WCL standings with six points after playing eight matches © AFP (File Photos)

Nepal and Kenya will take on each other in first of the two ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship matches at the Tribhuvan University (TU) International Cricket Ground in Kirtipur, near Kathmandu on March 11. The 50-over match will be a part of Kenya’s two-match trip to the tiny Himalayan nation for the ICC WCL Championship. Before this short trip, the two countries played some warm up matches at Delhi, India. Kenya also played a few games against the sides like Gujarat State Fertilizers Company (GSFC) and Baroda Cricket Association under-23 side in Gujarat, India. ALSO READ: ICC WCL Championship, Nepal vs Kenya, Preview: Hosts look to continue their home domination

The tournament is being played in double round-robin format and has eight teams participating in it. At the moment, Nepal stand sixth in the ICC WCL standings with six points after playing eight matches. Nepal had defeated Namibia in both matches played at the TU grounds while lost one and won one in their away match against the Netherlands. Similarly, Nepal faced defeats in both legs against Scotland and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Kenya, on the other hand, are one spot ahead of Nepal in the standings with eight points. They have won four and lost as many matches.

Standings notwithstanding, the two teams are likely to play some fiercely competitive cricket. There will be a few individual clashes within the main clash as well. Ahead of the first of the two-games, let us take a look at some of the likely clashes:

Gyandendra Malla vs Nehmiah Odhiambo: All eyes shall be on the in-form Nepali batsman Gyanendra Mall when the two teams meet. Malla recently slammed a match-winning hundred against the Kenyan side in the warm-up match at Delhi. His presence at the top is rock solid. Kenyan speedster Nehmiah Odhiambo is one of the most experience players of his side. The 33-year-old bowler has played 69 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and scalped 70 wickets so far. He is likely to bring all his experience to the table and test the in-form Malla. The Kenyan skipper Rakep Patel has asked people to watch out for Odhiambo. Their meeting, thus, makes for an interesting clash.

Paras Khadka vs Shem Ngoche: Nepali skipper and team’s best batsman by a distance, Khadka is the backbone of Nepal batting. At No. 4, he is the lynchpin of his side’s batting. A slow track is expected for the first game at the TU ground and in such conditions, another experienced campaigner Shem Ngoche is likely to pose a threat to Khadka. Ngoche, a left-arm spinner, will use all the variations up his sleeves to keep the Nepali captain under check. This duel looks mouth-watering.

Irfan Karim vs Sandeep Lamichhane: Irfan Karim, the 25-year-old opening batsman of the Kenyan side, is also the wicketkeeper. Son of former Kenyan skipper Aasif Karim, Irfan is an exciting talent. He’s another cricketer who Rakep speaks highly about. Irfan comes in with a reputation of playing long innings. He may thus come face-to-face to Sandeep Lamichhane, the exciting young leg-spinner.  The 16-year-old spinner is already a highly rated cricketer, with former Australian captain Michael Clarke vouching for his abilities and even arranging for him to train Down Under. It will be interesting to see how these to players, who have some buzz going about them, fare against each other.

Sompal Kami vs Alex Obanda: Another set of highly talented players, Nepal fast bowler Sompal Kami and Kenyan opener Alex Obanda’s duel will surely catch all the eyes. Kami has 12 wickets from his 11 T20I outings and is expected to lead the Nepali attack. Obanda, on the other hand, is another youngster his captain speaks highly of. This is one of the clashes which will be set up early in case Kenya bat first. Watch out for it.

Surprise factor: Rookie leg-spinner Pushpak Kerai has been named a surprise commodity by his captain. With turning track on offer, he may come in handy and bamboozle the opponents. At the same time, the seasoned campaigner for Nepal, Basant Regmi too will be effective in such conditions. The 30-year-old left-arm spinner will have a huge match-up with Kerai.