Century from Butt can't save Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 September, 2008, 12:00am

An unbeaten century by Hussain Butt was still not enough to lift Hong Kong to victory in their opening game on the training tour to Sri Lanka. They succumbed to a six-wicket loss to a National Academy XI at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Butt hit 116 as Hong Kong reached 218 for five in their 50 overs. The total was far too little as the young Sri Lankan outfit breezed to victory in the 44th over for the loss of four wickets.

'We lost momentum in the middle overs and it cost us. We were short by 40 to 50 runs,' said Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib. 'Hopefully we can address this in the next three games on this tour.'

The Sri Lankan Cricket Board has arranged four games for Hong Kong to help in the build-up to next month's ICC World Cricket League division four tournament in Tanzania. While Habib was reasonably happy with the first outing, saying Hong Kong could take a lot of positives, he wants the team to get into the winning habit quickly before the 2011 World Cup qualifier gets under way in Dar-es-Salaam.

'While this tour is a learning curve for us, it is not just about losing games. We must start to win and put ourselves in a good spirit before the ICC tournament,' Habib stressed.

Butt's knock - he faced 135 balls and hit a six and seven boundaries - is timely as it could mean he is getting back to form after a rather quiet ACC Trophy outing last month.

He came in to bat in the 18th over with the score on 42 for two with openers Nasir Hameed and Tabarak Dar dismissed cheaply. Butt and Zain Abbas (37) set about repairing the damage and figured in a 119-run partnership. But once Abbas was dismissed, the runs started to dry up. 'They were getting four to five runs an over and things were ticking over nicely. But with Zain's dismissal, the new batsmen failed to rotate the strike. This also resulted in Butt going into a shell a little bit and all this slowed our momentum.' Habib said.

The other concern for Habib was the amount of runs the opening bowlers - Afzaal Haider and Irfan Ahmed - leaked. Irfan grabbed two of the four wickets to fall but conceded 67 runs in his 10 overs while Haider, returning to the side after missing out on the ACC Trophy, was expensive.

'The Sri Lankans got off to a flier. They were good strong opposition but we let them off the hook with the new ball,' Habib said. 'We have to tighten things up.'

Left-arm spinner Najeeb Amar was the pick of the bowlers conceding only 36 runs off his 10 overs.

Hong Kong will meet the same opposition today in their second game.

'We are grateful the Sri Lankan Cricket Board is taking good care of us and arranged for us to play quality opposition, the fact that we got to play at a ground which stages international matches says a lot,' said Sher Lama, Hong Kong manager.