Unbeaten Butt inspires resurgent HK
A patient and unbeaten knock of 82 from Hussain Butt allowed Hong Kong to put their title defence at the Asian Cricket Council Trophy back on track with a six-wicket win over hosts Kuwait.
Boosted by the presence of skipper Najeeb Amar - who had missed the first game against Nepal owing to a visa mix-up - Hong Kong restricted Kuwait to 202 before successfully reaching the target thanks to Butt playing a valuable anchor role.
'Butt played his part to perfection. The plan is for one of our top-four batsmen to play a long innings. He stuck around and also got the runs. It was a very good knock,' Hong Kong coach Tabarak Dar said.
The foundation for victory had been laid earlier by Najeeb and the rest of the Hong Kong spin attack. After opening bowler Aizaz Khan had been taken for 15 runs in his first over, Najeeb opted to bring his spinners on from one end with Nadeem Ahmed given the honours.
Nadeem finished with two for 24 off his 10 overs, while Munir Dar grabbed two for 35. Najeeb went wicketless, but kept the pressure on with a tight spell conceding 29 runs from nine overs. The right-arm off-spin of Ilyas Gull created all sorts of worries for the Kuwait batsmen and he finished with superb figures of four for 33 off nine overs.
'It was a much better performance than our first outing against Nepal. Najeeb's return strengthened the bowling and his presence lifted the team's spirits,' Dar said. 'It was a 280-290 batting track and to limit them to 202 was a great effort.'
Kuwait were bowled out in the 50th over. But Hong Kong, who failed to bat out their overs in the 118-run loss to Nepal, did not make the same mistake as they took a measured approach with Butt (82 off 115 balls, including eight fours and a six) leading the way, and well supported by wicketkeeper Nasir Hameed (40) who was promoted to the opener's role, and Nizakat Khan (39).
An unbeaten 50-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Butt and Irfan Ahmed (21 not out) saw Hong Kong cruise home in the 44th over.
'We made one change to the batting line-up, moving Munir Dar down and opening with Nasir who we brought in as a wicketkeeping batsman,' said Tabarak Dar. 'We also played our other wicketkeeper Waqas Barkat as a specialist batsman, but luckily we didn't need him today.'
Hong Kong meet Singapore today and their final pool game will be against Oman. They will need to win both games to stay on course for a semi-final place.
'Singapore have lost both their games so far, while Oman have lost one. If we win both our remaining matches, we should make the semi-finals where we are likely to come up against either Afghanistan or the United Arab Emirates,' Dar said.