We were in the box seat but threw it away, laments Habib

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 February, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong can only reflect on what might have been as Afghanistan and Uganda - who they lost to narrowly - booked their berths in April's final qualifying round for the 2011 World Cup.

Hong Kong's batsmen couldn't hold their nerve as they lost by 13 runs to Afghanistan and by one run to Uganda in the ICC World League Division Three tournament in Buenos Aires, which ended on Saturday. Those defeats, plus a nine-wicket hammering by Papua New Guinea, resulted in Hong Kong finishing fourth in the six-team competition.

'We were in the box seat at one stage but threw it away,' said Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib. 'It's all good looking back and saying 'if this had happened, or if that had happened'. But the final analysis is that we were not good enough.' Habib added: 'That one-run loss to Uganda really hurt us badly. The boys couldn't pick themselves up after that. It is very disappointing to finish like this knowing that we had a good chance of going through to the final World Cup qualifying round.'

While Hong Kong's hopes were dashed, Afghanistan's dream run in the qualifiers continued as they finished top of the standings after inflicting a 82-run win over Cayman Islands in the replayed match.

Luck was on the side of Afghanistan. On Friday, they were on the verge of losing when bad weather left the Caymans with an easy victory target of 63 from 20 overs. But with the Caymans at 35-2, rain returned and forced the match to be abandoned.

Uganda beat Argentina by 99 runs to secure the second ticket to the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa in April. Papua New Guinea, who finished with the same points, missed out on net run rate. In April's qualifier, Afghanistan and Uganda will join ICC WCL Division One sides Kenya, Scotland, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and Bermuda and Division Two outfits UAE, Oman, Namibia and Denmark to battle it out for the four places available at the 2011 World Cup.

It has been an amazing run for Afghanistan - who only became an ICC associate member in 2001 - and have fought their way from the bottom.

They won the Division Four event in Tanzania last year by defeating Hong Kong by 57 runs and before that the Division Five event in Jersey by beating the hosts by two wickets in the final.

'To play in the World Cup for the first time will be a dream for us,' Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal said. Unfortunately for Hong Kong, that dream is over. 'The opportunity of a lifetime is gone,' lamented Habib.