Atkinson leads from front to seal Asian under-19 title

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 May, 2009, 12:00am

A captain's knock from Jamie Atkinson saw Hong Kong crowned Asian under-19 champions and move one step away from qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Atkinson scored a fine 94 as Hong Kong crushed Afghanistan by eight wickets in the final of the ACC U-19 Cup final in Kuwait.

The victory capped a remarkable double for Hong Kong with the senior team winning the ACC Trophy last July.

'I couldn't have asked for anything more from the team,' Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib said. 'It's a great achievement for Hong Kong cricket adding to the success achieved by the national team.'

Niaz Ali and Aizaz Khan grabbed three wickets each as Hong Kong chased a moderate total - 216 - after having put Afghanistan into bat. Atkinson was in commanding form, and with superb support from fellow-opener Shakeel Haq (51) laid the foundation for victory with an opening stand of 121.

Haq fell in the 30th over, but Atkinson, who hit 10 boundaries in his fluent knock, got further good backing from Nizakat Khan (46 not out) as the pair took the total to 180 without much fuss.

Man-of-the-final Atkinson was bowled six runs short of a deserving century but Irfan Ahmed - Hong Kong's mainstay in the tournament - hit a breezy 17 off 12 deliveries to complete a superb victory for Hong Kong.

The victory ended a splendid tournament which included wins over Singapore (by four wickets), Malaysia (six wickets), Nepal (36 runs) and Qatar in the semi-finals (23 runs). Their only loss was in the preliminary round when Saudi Arabia defeated them by five wickets.

Both Hong Kong and Afghanistan now qualify for a 10-team tournament involving the other top two U-19 teams from Europe, America, Africa and the East-Asia Pacific regions in November. This tournament, most likely to be held in the US, will decide which four teams will join teams from the test nations in Kenya next year.