It is 21 months since they did it in the last T20 World Cup qualifier in Muscat. Eight months since the Cricket World Cup League 2 at Tribhuvan University. Six months since the Asia Cup decider in Kirtipur. And a mere seven days since the tri-nations series final.
Now here they are, all set to do it again, with absolutely everything riding on one match. The UAE and Nepal really need to stop meeting like this.
The two biggest rivals in Asian cricket beyond the Test elite have one, winner-takes-all encounter left to decide who goes to next year’s T20 World Cup.
Forty overs to decide who gets to mix with the best in the United States and the West Indies next June. It feels a scandal that it is going to be one or the other, and not both.
It did not need to be like this. Nepal could have evaded their old rivals if they had beaten Oman in Kantipur.
As is their habit, they tried their best to pull off an unbelievable heist. They required 26 off their final over to haul in the 146 they needed.
Thanks to some extraordinary hitting by Bibek Yadav, they got to within one blow, only to fall short.
At the same time, across Kathmandu, the UAE were busy putting together a third win in their group, by 22 runs against Kong Kong. As group winners, they get to play the second-placed side from the other pool: Nepal.
The national team also get the benefit of continuing to play at the ground at which they played all their pool matches, Upper Mulpani Cricket Ground.
That is significant, and the source of much conjecture. The tournament organisers opted to play this fixture at Mulpani no matter where the host nation finished.
There has been precedent at a variety of tournaments in the past for a venue to be decided on the basis of where a particular team play. India, for example, played all their matches at recent Asia Cups in Dubai, no matter how their draw worked out.
It would surely have made more sense for Nepal to be guaranteed to play at Tribhuvan University. The ground can accommodate up to around 15,000 supporters on its grass banks and seated areas.
By contrast, there are no spectator facilities inside the perimeter walls at Mulpani. Instead, fans on the high side over the ground have to peer over walls and between barbed wiring.
Behind a fence square of the wicket is a large expanse of wasteland on which cows graze, plus a half-constructed building and one basic toilet.
Given what is at stake, the area will likely be swamped by fans on Friday.
On the field, the UAE at least know the challenge that will be facing them. They have faced Nepal 23 times in all limited-overs cricket in the past five years, winning 10 and losing 13.
“We are obviously eyeing the trophy and our team has been going really well, at this ground especially,” Basil Hameed said.
“It is a tricky ground but we have played enough games to understand the situation.
“Having said that, Nepal are a really strong side. They have been doing very well for the past six months, and of course, they have good backing from the crowd as well.
“We need to be at the top of our game. I’m hoping everyone can contribute to get us to the final.”
Vriitya Aravind will be waiting on the result of an X-ray to see if he can take his place in the XI to face Nepal. He suffered a hand injury while batting against Hong Kong.
Hameed, too, is still nursing a hand injury which required stitches during the recent ILT20 development tournament in Dubai.
It has not adversely affected his form, though. He was named player of the match in the win over Hong Kong for a sparkling half century. He averages 69 in seven T20 internationals at Mulpani.
“I am glad that I have been able to work out a formula in my batting,” Hameed said.
“Running between the wickets is crucial on this type of a surface. I am glad I have been able to work out something for my team.”
UAE vs Kuwait Cricket match
Junaid Siddique of UAE celebrates a wicket during their T20 World Cup qualifier against Kuwait at the Mulpani Cricket Ground in Kathmandu on Tuesday, October 31, 2023. All images Subas Humagain for The National
Updated: November 02, 2023, 9:47 AM