Elated Hong Kong dream of World Cup glory
A happy and tired Hong Kong will return home tonight with dreams of World Cup glory having accompanied them on their long flight from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
'You always dream of going to a World Cup and while I don't want to look too far ahead, this is something every one of us will hope for,' said an elated Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib (pictured) before he embarked on the journey home from a successful ICC World Cricket League division four tournament.
Hong Kong couldn't quite put the icing on the cake as they lost by 57 runs to Afghanistan in the final of the six-team tournament. But by being in the final, Hong Kong had achieved their target of qualifying for the division three tournament in Argentina in January and moved one step closer to the 2011 World Cup.
If Hong Kong finish in the top two in Argentina, they will reach the final qualifiers, where the four leading sides will progress to the next World Cup in 2011.
'Obviously our next goal is to do well in Argentina, but yes, it is a dream for me and a dream for our players to reach the World Cup,' Habib said. 'But we will take it one game at a time, one tournament at a time. Argentina is our priority now.'
Afghanistan, who had beaten Hong Kong by just two runs in the preliminary round, got the better of them again in the final, but this time by a bigger margin. Hong Kong captain Tabarak Dar, who had a remarkable sequence of winning the coin toss five times, called wrong in the final and Afghanistan had no hesitation batting first.
They were bowled out for 179 with 16-year-old spinner Nizakat Khan excelling with a spell of four for 29 off eight overs.
But from a promising 69 for two, Hong Kong crumbled and were bowled out for 122 in the 45th over. Skipper Dar was the top-scorer with 33.
'It was a tough wicket to bat on. They had played a few matches previously on the same wicket and it looked like a fifth-day test wicket where the ball was keeping low and taking vicious spin,' Habib said.
'Even though we couldn't quite finish if off in style, we have done exceptionally well. It has been a long and hard trip and the boys are very tired. But all credit to them for having done the job.'