The fourth round of the World Cricket League Championship will get underway on Saturday when the Netherlands take on Nepal in the first of two one day matches. The two sides have only met twice before in the 50-over format, the first a comfortable win for the Dutch at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, the second a surprise 2-wicket victory for Nepal at World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia a year later.

Both sides are rather short of competitive match practice going into the games, neither having played any List A cricket since the previous round of the competition last year. Nepal have been on a preparatory tour to England in the UK in the interim however, whilst the Netherlands played their first 50-over match of the year only two days ago, beating the MCC at Rotterdam.

Whilst the Dutch are again favourites heading into the games, a combination of availability issues and injuries will prevent them fielding a full-strength squad. With Nepal coming to the Netherlands on a winning streak - they didn't drop a single game on their UK tour - the hosts cannot afford to be complacent.

Most significant of said injury worries for the Dutch, captain and middle-order linchpin Peter Borren's participation is in grave doubt after the Netherlands' skipper split the webbing on his right hand taking a slips catch against the MCC. Added to that, Canterbury's Logan van Beek is still sidelined, Tom Cooper remains in Australia, whilst Timm van de Gugten's availability remains in doubt given his Glamorgan commitments.

Meanwhile the debacle against Afghanistan highlighted the Netherlands' most persistent problem, that of a consistently inconsistent top order. Whilst the Dutch line-up boasts a number of explosive and dangerous players, generally speaking their batting has tended more toward the dynamic than the dependable.

The promotion of Michael Rippon to open alongside Stephan Myburgh has gone some way toward ameliorating that issue however, Woolpit CC's reluctant opener consistently scoring runs even in the midst of collapse. Myburgh himself has had an excellent season in domestic cricket, currently leading the run-scoring tables, but remains something of an all-or-nothing gambit. Averaging 56 with an improbable standard deviation of 45, statistically speaking Myburgh is likely to either get out in single figures or score a century. Nonetheless, depite the presence of Wesley Barresi and Ben Cooper in the squad as contenders for the opening slot, the combination of Rippon and Myburgh to open looks more or less settled.

The question of the opening partnership has similarly been a perennial quandry for Nepal, but likewise now looks somewhat more settled. Former "fake number 3" Gyanendra Malla is now more or less established in one slot, whilst the second slot looks likely to fall to Anil Mandal - if only by a process of elimination.

Long-serving keeper/opener Subash Khakurel has been dropped after a disappointing UK tour - a move that many in Nepal see as long overdue - and his likely replacement as wicketkeeper, former under-19 captain Raju Rijal, is not a contender for the opening slot. Occasional opener Naresh Budayair is also absent, currently playing club cricket in Canada, and Nepal's short-lived experiment with Mahesh Chhetri at the top of the order also seems to have run its course, leaving Mandal as the man in possession.

Mandal has been inconsistent, but his 73 against Eastbourne CC in UK tour and a defiant 61 against Pakistan A will have done much to banish memories of twin ducks against PNG, and Mandal remains the only Nepali to have made a century in Europe. The main threat to his place is another under-19 graduate, Sunil Dhamala. Dhamala caught the selectors' attention by topping the run-aggregates at the most recent under-19 World Cup Qualifier, memorably scoring a fluent 75 against a strong Ireland team. But whilst Dhamala looks a promising prospect, he looks unlikely to displace Mandal as yet, though the option of dropping Malla back to his preferred number 3 and opening with Mandal and Dhamala must surely have crossed coach Jagat Tamata's mind.

Nepal can better afford to risk an untested opening partnership than in the past, as Sharad Vesawkar's excellent recent form - with 274 runs in the compettion at an average of 68.5, sitting only two runs behind UAE's Shaiman Anwar on the aggregate runs table - has lessened their historic reliance on Malla and skipper Paras Khadka for runs. With Malla, Khadka and Vesawkar coming in at 3, 4 and 5 a shaky opening parnership need not spell disaster for Nepal, but that said, Vesawkar seems to have taken to his new role in number three spot and disturbing him to acommodate Dhamala still looks an unnecessary gamble.

For the Netherlands, the question of who to send in at first-drop is rather trickier. Ben Cooper, the habitually pick at number three, has been struggling for form of late, and the recall of Tim Gruijters, who took the role against Afghanistan, has not been quite the success that might have been hoped for. Going on domestic form a ready answer presents itself, but Eric Szwarczynski's estrangement from the national team (the 2-wicket loss to Nepal at Windhoek was his penultimate appearance for the Dutch) remains unresolved, and no amount of Topklasse runs seems sufficient to prompt a rapprochement.

The role will likely fall to Gruijters if he plays, with keeper-batsman Barresi the other likely option. Barresi has opened for the Dutch in the past, but of late has been coming in down the order, a role which suits his aggressive but unpredictable style. The Dutch have never been averse to shuffling the batting order based on circumstance, though in this case circumstances pertain more to selection, form and fitness constraints than coach Anton Roux would likely prefer.

Given captain Peter Borren's recent form - he top scored with 97 against the MCC before being injured - the Dutch would miss him as a batsman is almost as as captain. Borren has something of a reputation for playing through injury, but if he is rested then it is almost inevitable that the Dutch middle-order will be shifted up a spot.

Though left-arm spinners Roelof van der Merwe and Pieter Seelaar could both comfortably hold their place in the side on the strength of their batting - and indeed Seelaar has hardly bowled for the Netherlands of late - moving them up the order risks leaving the Dutch with an uncomfortably long tail. In principle the fact that two or arguably three of the Dutch batting line-up, Rippon, van der Merwe and Seelaar, are also first-choice spinners, leaves room for an extra specialist bat - were one available. But in fact another spinning all-rounder, Max O'Dowd, is most likely to take the spot, depending on how he compares with pace all-rounders Shane Snater, Sikander Zulfiqar and -assuming Borren's injury leaves a spot in the squad - Hidde Overdijk, who will all feature in the warm-up match against Nepal tomorrow.

Nepal's lower-middle order is similarly replete with all-rounders. Former opener, off-spinner and general floating utility player Sagar Pun is as much a bowler as a batsman these days, and has come in as high as three and as low as eight for Nepal in recent matches, whilst opening bowler Sopmal Kami's consistent showings as a lower-order hitter rather press for moving him up the order.

There is certainly room to acommodate either, for if the top four for Nepal looks close to an uncharacteristically settled question, the middle order is something of a riddle. Both Binod Bhandari and Rajesh Pulami have been in erratic form at best, and with Siddhant Lohani left at home (as with pace all-rounder Aarif Sheikh, a somewhat surpirsing omission), in-form specialist batsmen are as much a rarity in the Nepalese squad as in the Dutch.

Keeper Rijal has scored more consistently than either Bhandari or Pulami, and there's a case to promote him to come in after Khadka with the hard-hitting Pun dropped down into Vesawkar's vacated role as finisher, but with Nepal freely swapping their line-up around throughout the recent tour it's perfectly possible the batting order won't be decided ahead of of time.

Equally uncertain is the composition of the Nepali attack. Though Sompal Kami is a certain pick, the question of who will share the new ball with him is far from decided. Karan Khatri-Chhetri was first choice when Nepal were last in the Netherlands, but had a poor tour then and has since failed to cement his position. Pressing for the second-seamer spot is newcomer Bikram Sob, whose return of 4-26 against the Free Foresters made his case for inclusion. With the VRA pitch generally expected to be rather quicker than the last time the sides met there, the rarely-exercised option of Nepal playing three specialist seamers cannot be ruled out.

Karan KC is not the only man under pressure however, with Pun's continued development as an off-spinner the emergence of young leggie Sandip Lamichhane (he of the hat-trick against Ireland under 19s), Nepal's spinning stalwarts Basant Regmi and Shakti Gauchan are no longer the first names on the team sheet. Though Nepal have happily played all four together in spin-friendly conditions, the possibility of Regmi or Gauchan making way should conditions dictate is not as implausible as it once was.

For the Dutch, as we've established, the spin contingent is more or less dictated by the needs of the batting line-up. That said, both van der Merwe and Rippon would both almost certainly make the team even had they never held a bat before, and Seelaar has been bowling irreproachably for the Dutch when called upon.

The more difficult question for the Dutch is the make-up of the pace department. Though injuries to Quirijn Gunning and Logan van Beek have somewhat whittled down the pace-pool, the Dutch still enjoy an embarrassment of riches when it comes to seamers. It's a testament to the glut of quality quicks available to the Netherlands that Somerset's recent acquisition, Paul van Meekeren, is not a sure selection. Glamorgan's Timm van der Gugten, if available, is the only safe bet to play, though in the absence of Peter Borren Ahsan Malik will almost certainly be called upon for his ability to play the holding role in the middle overs as much as his unmatched ability at the death, especially given the canny medium pacer's stellar record against Nepal.

Contending for the remaining spots are (at least) van Meekeren, Vivian Kingma, Mudassar Bukhari and Shane Snater. Again, selection may be dictated to some extent by the needs of the batting line-up, with Bukhari most likely to profit. Newcomer Snater, a former Zimbabwe youth international now playing at Rood & Wit Haarlem also gives the Dutch more with the bat, and impressed with the ball during the North Sea Pro-Series, though he remains untested at international level in limited overs. The Dutch assessment of the pitch and conditions may well influence the eventual decision, with van Meekeren hard to ignore if the pitch looks like it will offer bounce and speed, whilst Kingma will likely get the nod if conditions are conducive to swing. Given the changeable weather in the Netherlands at the moment that too will likely only be clear on the day itself.

The strength of the Dutch pace contingent alone is probably enough to make them favourites, especially in home conditions against a Nepal side that has not historically travelled well. That said, the host's brittle batting card, compounded by the unavailability of key players and potential absence of their long-serving captain presents the visitors with every chance of staging another upset.


Live ball-by-ball commentary from the ground on CricketEurope.

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Nepal Squad

Paras Khadka (c), Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Vesawkar, Amil Mandal, Raju Rijal (wk), Binod Bhandari, Sagar Pun, Rajesh Pulami, Sunil Dhamala, Basant Regmi, Shakti Gauchan, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Bikram Sob.

Coach: Jagat Tamata

Netherlands Squad

Peter Borren(c),Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudassar Bukhari, Ben Cooper, Tim Gruijters, Timm van der Gugten, Vivian Kingma, Ahsan Malik, Paul van Meekeren, Roelof van der Merwe, Stephan Myburgh, Michael Rippon, Pieter Seelaar, Shane Snater, Sikander Zulfiqar, Max O'Dowd.

Coach: Anton Roux


Netherlands A Squad (warm-up)

Dirk van Baren, Max O'Dowd, Tim Etman, Tim Gruijters, Quirijn Gunning, Mahesh Hans, Vivian Kingma, Hidde Overdijk, Pieter Seelaar, Shane Snater, Roel Verhagen, Saqib Zulfiqar, Sikander Zulfiqar.