Classy Emirates maintain stranglehold on HK
Hong Kong continue to bow before the United Arab Emirates, whose reign as one-day kings among Asia's second-rung nations carried on unabated yesterday as they recorded a comfortable five-wicket victory in the ACC Trophy final in Kuala Lumpur.
The Emirates have been Hong Kong's nemeses in all forms of the game - from one-dayers to the longer three-day version - in recent years. And they showed no signs of relaxing that stranglehold with an accomplished all-round performance.
Hong Kong scored 174 for eight after electing to bat first. But that total was never going to pose any problems for the Emirates' batting line-up. So it proved as stylish left-hander Khurram Khan stroked an elegant 61 not out to lead his side to an emphatic win.
'We didn't get sufficient runs on the board, and then we dropped a couple of vital catches which might have swung the game our way,' said Hong Kong coach Robin Singh. 'While we are disappointed at losing the final, having entered it is a huge achievement in itself. It is a huge step forward from where we were.'
Khurram Khan figured in a match-winning fourth-wicket partnership of 93 with Kashif Khan, the pair steadying the ship after the loss of three early wickets for 69. Khurram hit eight boundaries and a six and brought up his 50 in style by hoisting left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed for a huge six over mid-on. Both batsmen were let off before they had settled down and those dropped catches proved costly. Hong Kong needed to score at least 225 if they were to make a match of it. But the rot set in when Rahul Sharma was run out for 45 in the 35th over to leave Hong Kong on 107 for two. Sharma, who had an outstanding tournament, was beaten by a direct hit from none other than Khurram.
Sharma was followed by the dismissals of Hussain Butt and Tim Smart, who top-scored with 55, and Hong Kong were 133 for four after 42 overs. Three more wickets tumbled in the next over - Irfan Ahmed (run out for 23), Najeeb Amar (caught sweeping to fine leg) and Courtney Kruger (leg before).
'The turning point in the match came when we lost six quick wickets, including four wickets in the space of 12 balls. We needed to keep wickets in hand for a big onslaught in the final 10 overs, but we failed to do so,' said Singh.
Alex French hit an unbeaten 23 as Hong Kong pushed the final score to 174 - well short of a competitive target. So it proved as the UAE romped to the total in 35.3 overs.
'The UAE were not the best side in the tournament, but they are a side used to winning. They play a lot of cricket and this is what Hong Kong must do now to try and match them in the future,' added Singh.
But despite the loss, Hong Kong were in a celebratory mood having accomplished the goal of gaining promotion to the third division of the world league and keeping alive their 2011 World Cup hopes.
By reaching the final in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong also qualified for the 2008 Asia Cup, where they will take on test-playing nations India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.