Tragedy strikes as batting meltdown costs HK
Hong Kong cricket and tragedy go hand in hand. For it was another wretched, heart-breaking story that was played out at the Bayuemas Oval in Kuala Lumpur yesterday as the SAR were knocked out of the Asian Cricket Council Trophy by Kuwait.
There has been a long line of tragedies in recent years. But yesterday's result must be the cruellest as Hong Kong tied with Kuwait in a nerve-wracking run-chase only to lose out on entering the quarter-finals on net run rate.
Kuwait, put into bat, recovered from 55 for five in the 12th over to post a competitive 253 for eight. Hong Kong also replied with 253 for eight, having failed to score four runs for victory off the last over. They knew they had thrown away their chances, for before the game began, Kuwait had a better net run rate (3.70) than Hong Kong (3.58).
'We had it in our hands but threw it away,' said Krishna Kumar, the Hong Kong Cricket Association's chairman of selectors, who witnessed the gripping encounter. 'It was there for the taking.'
Battling knocks by skipper Tim Smart (51), Rahul Sharma (58), Hussain Butt (74) and Tabarak Dar (37), were all in vain. Needing four off the last six balls, Hong Kong's middle order once again pressed the self-destruct button.
Najeeb Amar was run out on the first ball, coming back for a second run. Amjad Mahmood stole a single off the next ball to leave Hong Kong two runs short of a remarkable victory. Irfan Ahmed, who had opened in the previous three group games, could not get the third ball away from Kuwait's Azmat Ullah. With the pressure mounting, Ahmed could only spoon a catch to cover off the fourth ball.
Hong Kong needed two runs off two balls when Ilyas Gull walked in. He was out first ball, caught behind. Afzaal Haider then came out to face the last delivery with two runs still needed. Haider could only manage to push to cover, and Mahmood and he scampered through for a single. The match was tied. 'I can't believe that we lost,' said Kumar.
Hong Kong were made to rue letting Kuwait off the hook earlier after Haider had taken three early wickets to leave them precariously placed on 55 for five. But the rest of the bowling, apart from Butt, failed to back Haider and Kuwait fought back to post a total which, in the end, was just enough to give Hong Kong another heartache.
It must qualify for the shortest match in the history of the ACC Trophy - Myanmar's 10-wicket loss to Nepal yesterday. Put into bat, Myanmar were bowled out for 10 in 12.1 overs. Nepal's openers needed only two balls to knock off the runs.
Hong Kong had earlier beaten Myanmar, the tournament debutants, by a record 422 runs - having scored 442 for three and then bowling them out for 20.