HK feel the heat after Afghan setback
A four-wicket defeat to Afghanistan has placed Hong Kong under the cosh as they attempt to qualify for the ICC World Cricket League division three tournament in Argentina in January.
Hong Kong will need to win their final group game against Jersey in convincing fashion and hope that Italy don't win their last two games as it would then come down to net run rates deciding who will join Argentina as the two qualifiers from the division four tournament being played in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
'It is not panic stations as yet. I still think we have a very good chance of reaching the final,' Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib said. 'We were in the box seat and had the game by the scruff of the neck but unfortunately couldn't quite finish it off.'
Hong Kong were cruising towards a big score against Afghanistan with the in-form Zain Abbas and Hussain Butt having put on 84 runs for the third wicket and taken the score to a healthy 164 for two at the start of the 40th over.
Abbas, who had previous scores of 70 (against Italy) and 47 (Fiji), had made 69 from 119 deliveries and was looking good for another big contribution before being bowled by Mohammed Nabi, who took five wickets to spark a collapse as Hong Kong tumbled to 206 all out in 50 overs.
All the good work from opener Roy Lamsam, who made a brisk 35 including six boundaries, was undone as the last seven wickets fell for 54 runs.
Butt followed Abbas after being involved in a mix-up and was run out for 34, and the departure of the two recognised batsmen resulted in a procession as Hong Kong panicked trying to force the pace in the last 10 overs.
'Thirty more runs would have been nice, but we lost our way. However I still felt we had enough on the board to win,' Habib said.
Afghanistan chased down the target with two balls to spare - 207 for six - with Nabi once again playing a key role, scoring a match-winning 70 from 78 balls. He walked to the crease with his side precariously placed on 48 for three at the end of the 19th over, but remained calm and, with skipper Norooz Mangal (50), put on 105 to lift Afghanistan towards victory.
'We were unlucky not to have dismissed him when he was on 20. But he was given a life, being dropped on the boundary, and he took his chance,' Habib said.
Left-arm spinner Munir Dar was the most successful bowler, taking two for 27 from 10 overs and received good support from Najeeb Amar (0-22) and Ilyas Gull (0-33). But the Ahmed brothers, medium-pacer Irfan (2-59) and left-arm spinner Nadeem (1-49) proved expensive, conceding 108 runs in their combined 18.4 overs.