Woeful batting puts paid to HK's semi-finals hopes
Alvin Sallay in Sharjah
The soul-searching session lasted longer than it took the United Arab Emirates to deliver the coup de grace and romp to a convincing seven-wicket victory over Hong Kong in the ICC Intercontinental Cup yesterday.
The end was swift and brutal. Khuram Khan and Syed Maqsood, the overnight batsmen, wasted little time as they knocked off the 41 runs required in less than 30 minutes of play on the final day of the three-day encounter.
Most of the runs came from boundaries as both batsmen reached their half-centuries in style, Maqsood lifting Nadeem Ahmed over long-off for a huge six, while in the next over Khuram hit a glorious cover drive off Afzaal Haider to score his second successive half century of the match.
Victory was always on the cards for the UAE after being set a meagre target of 185. And with their top two batsmen knuckling down to the job, posting an unbeaten 90-run partnership, the writing was clearly on the wall for Hong Kong, who soon after the match, were ensconced in the dressing room with coach Robin Singh for a 90-minute soul-searching session.
But there was no need for expert analysis of why Hong Kong's hopes of making it to the semi-final stages of this tournament in Namibia in October were crushed. A layman could have pinpointed the cause - diabolical batting.
'We just didn't bat well enough. The guys let themselves down,' admitted captain Tim Smart after he emerged from the dressing room. 'The batsmen didn't play straight enough. They batted as if they were batting back home on an astro-turf wicket.'
Smart said that apart from Adam Gunthorpe, who scored 38 and 46, and Ilyas Gull, who had unbeaten knocks of 33 and 32, the rest of the batsmen should look inwards and question what went wrong with their batting before the game against Nepal in three days.
'You couldn't ask for more from Adam and Ilyas. They played really well and it is a shame they couldn't get more support from the rest of us,' said Smart.
'I thought we were in a great position at lunch on the second day when we were 100 for three with Adam and Manoj [Cheruparambil] batting. It was a dominant position and I was hoping we could bat all day and set them a target of 250 or 300. Unfortunately we could not get some good partnerships going,' said Smart.
Bowled out for 184 in the second innings - after both sides had tied their first-innings scores at 127 - Hong Kong knew they were desperately short of runs against a powerful line-up who would be doubly determined to do well having failed the first time.
'Our aim was to come out and be positive and go on the attack,' said Khuram, UAE's man of the match.
'We decided to send in Ahmed Nadeem, who is normally a number-nine batsmen, at the fall of the first wicket and his role was to just attack the bowling. We knew that once the runs started to flow, it would be easy.'
Khuram was undoubtedly the star. He took a match haul of five wickets with his left-arm spin, but, more importantly, made useful batting contributions of 56 and 55 not out. And together with Maqsood, who once again proved to be a thorn in Hong Kong's side (on the last occasion when he played against the SAR he scored a hundred), the pair comfortably steered the home team to victory.
'These two players have been our key batsmen for a long time,' said UAE coach Abid Ali. 'They are extraordinary cricketers and I was confident I could rely on them in the second innings.
'Being dismissed for 127 in the first innings was just a bad day for the boys. They were too complacent having got Hong Kong out cheaply and paid the price for it. I knew it wouldn't happen again in the second innings.
'But if Hong Kong had set us a target of over 250, it might have been a touch more difficult.'