Karan KC was the hero again for Nepal at Muscat today, putting in a match-winning all-round performance to see them snatch an improbable victory over the Netherlands and go level with hosts Oman in the T20I pentangular series. Ireland meanwhile recorded their second win as Kevin O'Brien struck Ireland's first T20I century to power his side to an imposing total of 208 against Hong Kong, who would come up 66 runs short as they slid to their third successive defeat.
The Netherlands once again got off to a promising start in the morning game despite the early loss of Tobias Visee, who was bowled through the gate by a Sandeep Lamichanne googly on the first ball of the second over, with Tonny Staal, promoted to number three in the absence of the injured Ben Cooper, providing the early impetus. Staal would become Karan's first victim when he holed out for 21 in the sixth over, however, and again the Dutch rather lost their way as the field spread. Colin Ackermann kept the scoreboard ticking at one end with a 20-ball 29 before missing a sweep against Lalit Rajbanshi, but Max O'Dowd struggle to shift gears at the other end, taking 43 balls to reach the top score of 43 before falling on the 44th looking to break the shackles against Lamichhane.
The young legspinner would claim two more victims as the Dutch seemed to pursue an ill-advised strategy of targetting his bowling, and Karan would wrap up the innings with three balls to go, striking twice in two balls to see the Dutch bowled out for a modest total of 133. For much of the Nepali reply that looked like it might be comfortably enough, the Dutch seam attack giving up just 25 runs in the first six overs before Pawan Sarraf was caught behind off Glover for a belaboured 9 off 16 on the last ball of the powerplay.
Left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe would turn the screw in the middle overs, giving up just 14 runs from his four overs and claiming two wickets, including the crucial scalp of Nepal skipper Paras Khadka - pinned LBW for 33 off 41. Binod Bhandari, the hero from yesterday's match against Hong Kong, would keep Nepal in with a chance, but when he fell for 26 on the final ball of the 18th Karan and Sompal Kami were left needing 28 off the last 12 balls. In a knock reminiscent of his heroics at WCL Division 2 last year, Karan again pulled off an improbable heist. After contriving to hit a perfectly decent yorker from Brandon Glover for a straight six in the penultimate over, Karan would clear the ropes twice more off Shane Snater's final over to clinch the win with a ball to spare, adding a match-turning knock of 31 off 14 to his figures of 4 for 17.
The Dutch remain winless in the competition with two games to go, while the luckless Hong Kong have likewise yet to record a win, after running into a rampant Kevin O'Brien in the third match of the series. O'Brien became the first Irishman to record a century for his country in all three formats with a brutal knock off 124 off 62 balls that included 12 fours and 7 sixes. Ireland looked in control from ball one, which Kinchit Shah tossed up outside off and Paul Stirling swept square to the rope.
Stirling would prove a fine foil for O'Brien for the first 8 overs, the pair adding 80 runs for the first wicket before Stirling was bowled for 36 slashing across the line at Ehsan Khan to give the off-spinner the first of his three wickets. Khan strike twice more to remove Andy Balbirnie for 10 and Gareth Delaney for a brisk 19 off 10 deliveries, but the wickets at the other end did little to slow O'Brien. By the time he finally holed out off Kyle Christie in the final over he had taken Ireland past the 200-mark and the game out of Hong Kong's hands.
Hong Kong never looked like getting close to the total, three wickets falling in the first six overs as the required rate climbed toward the implausible. Some defiance was to be found down the order courtesy a 27-ball 45 from newcomer Haroon Arshad, who is arguably the only Hong Kong player other than Khan who can reasonably claim to be having a good tour. Khan himself struck four boundaries in an entertaining, unbeaten cameo at number eight, but by then the game was long gone. 66 runs was the eventual margin of victory, keeping Ireland in contention for the title should they beat Nepal in their final match tomorrow morning and the Netherlands get the better of the hosts in the afternoon game.