Nepal PM Regmi praises team over Twenty20 cricket win

Nepal cricket team in Abu Dhabi

Nepal's acting PM Khil Raj Regmi has congratulated his country's cricket team after they qualified for their first major tournament in Abu Dhabi.

The Himalayan nation secured an exciting last-ball victory over Hong Kong to secure a place at next year's World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Many fans reportedly said prayers from the stands as Nepal required 13 from the final over.

Sharad Vesawkar was the hero, smashing the first ball for a straight six.

He then went on to hit the winning runs to chase down 143 for eight at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier.

Nepal now face Afghanistan in the semi-final of the tournament on Friday.

'A boost'

"This is a historical success for the Nepali cricket team," Mr Regmi said in a statement.

Image caption Nepalese expatriate workers in Abu Dhabi celebrated wildly - more celebrations are inevitable when the team returns home
Image caption It is hoped the team's success will provide a much-needed boost to Nepalese cricket

"This has helped to boost up Nepal and Nepali cricket team's prestige and confidence in the world."

Correspondents say that the team is likely to receive a heroes' welcome when they return to Kathmandu, regardless of what happens on Friday.

Captain Paras Khadka's 46 from 39 balls formed the basis of Nepal's run-chase as they won by five wickets.

Cricket Nepal website editor Somesh Verma told the BBC that Nepal only started playing cricket in 1996.

"Nepal has never been to any kind of world cup in a team game - this is the biggest moment, not only for Nepalese cricket but for Nepalese sport," he said.

"I have seen for the past 13 years players struggling, some didn't even have side jobs… [I have] seen a lot of potential players who could have been in this team leave cricket altogether because they couldn't support their families."

Mr Verma warned that problems facing the game in Nepal would not disappear despite the latest triumph because the country lacks a cricketing infrastructure.

Six sides from the qualifier will reach the main tournament in Bangladesh next year.

Ireland, Afghanistan, Nepal and UAE have already secured their places.

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