Irfan's opening act cushions HK loss
Hong Kong might have unearthed an opener in Irfan Ahmed as they lost their second game in the build-up to the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament later this month in Argentina, going down narrowly by two wickets to a strong Sri Lanka Academy XI in Colombo.
Irfan, who was the star at last year's Hong Kong Sixes, came in as a stop-gap opener after Jamie Atkinson and Roy Lamsam - who opened in the first match - couldn't play as they were sick. And he starred with the bat, pummelling an aggressive 68.
'He batted very well, playing in his normal aggressive style. It is an option to use him as an opener in Argentina,' said coach Aftab Habib, who is looking at settling his batting order now that former opener and captain Tabarak Dar has opted to bat in the middle order.
Together with Courtney Kruger (32), Irfan put on 106 for the opening wicket before it all unravelled. Their twin dismissals led to a mini-collapse with Hong Kong finishing at 179.
The hosts' run chase began disastrously when Irfan, who opens the bowling too, grabbed two wickets in his opening over, and had a hand in a run out to leave the Sri Lankans teetering at four for three. But sensible batting by the rest of the Academy XI saw them home by two wickets.
'It was a game we should have won. We could have batted them out of the equation but from 106 for no loss, we just couldn't keep the momentum going once Irfan and Courtney were out,' Habib said. 'We need someone getting a 100 in every match.'
Habib said he would have to look at all his options before deciding whether he wanted to use Irfan in the opening role.
'He normally bats aggressively, but we might look at him playing a pinch-hitting role. That's his natural game anyway and it is an option to use him at the top of the order,' he said.
Hong Kong have two more practice matches in Colombo, before returning on Friday. The squad will leave for Buenos Aires on Sunday. The six-team 2011 World Cup qualifier will be held from January 24 to 31.
Before snaring two wickets, Irfan Ahmed laid the foundation for HK's total with an aggressive knock of: 68