HK keep hopes alive with crucial victory

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 January, 2009, 12:00am

Vice-captain Manoj Cheruparambil and fellow-opener Roy Lamsam laid the foundation for victory against Cayman Islands as Hong Kong stayed on course for a top-two finish at the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Argentina.

The Hong Kong openers figured in a match-winning stand of 128 that paved the way for a 49-run win over the Caribbean islanders in a must-win game that kept alive hopes of making it through to the final qualifying round for the 2011 World Cup.

Hong Kong are now second in the six-team competition with four points, behind unbeaten Papua New Guinea (six points). But the real danger could be Afghanistan and pre-tournament favourites Uganda, who also have four points each.

'It is wide open, but the good thing is our fate is still in our own hands,' Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib said. 'We must win both our remaining games to advance to the final qualifying round.'

Hong Kong will play their next game against Uganda with worries over their batting which has still to click as a unit. Despite Cheruparambil and Lamsam figuring in a fine stand, Hong Kong collapsed to 210 all out with more than three overs to spare. Six batsmen failed to make it into double figures, including ducks from Hussain Butt, Zain Abbas, Irfan Ahmed and Ilyas Gull. Only Cheruparambil's 85 from 123 balls - the highest score in the tournament so far - and Lamsam's 60 (73 balls) were the redeeming factors.

'It is just a matter of the guys losing their focus and tending to become too relaxed when in a position of strength,' Habib said. 'They need to stand up and be counted.'

Having sat out the first two games, Cheruparambil was drafted in after stop-gap opener Irfan Ahmed failed to fire.

'Manoj hasn't played much competitive cricket but we knew he was hungry. He played exceptionally well,' Habib said.

Abbas grabbed four for 28 and good spells from Nadeem Ahmed (two for 18) and Gull (three for 28) resulted in the Cayman Islands being bowled out in the 48th over.