HK settle for third as 'aggressive' Afghans secure ACC Trophy
Hong Kong defeated Malaysia by seven runs to claim third place in the Asian Cricket Council Trophy in Kuwait.
Afghanistan, Asia's hottest associate member, who have qualified for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, beat Nepal in the final by 95 runs to clinch their first ACC Trophy.
Dethroned Hong Kong just managed to hold off Malaysia, who, chasing 252 for victory, were bowled out for 244, with captain Najeb Amar taking three for 34.
Up-and-coming youngster Nizakat Khan won the man of the match for an unbeaten 72, while Ilyas Gull (75) and Roy Lamsam (50) were also among the runs as Hong Kong reached 251 for six in their 50 overs.
It was the first time in the tournament that more than one Hong Kong batsman had scored a half-century in a match.
Yet it came too late in their title defence, with Afghanistan knocking out Hong Kong in the semi-finals.
'I believe Hong Kong have the talent to be the top associate team in the region, but long-term planning and team building is required,' stop-gap coach Tabarak Dar said. 'The talent is there, but that talent needs to be groomed and needs to get mature under tough conditions, which they are not getting in Hong Kong.'
He said the difference in the semi-final loss to Afghanistan was that their opponents were more match-hardened and mentally tougher - something he believed could be instilled in Hong Kong's players only by them playing competitive games regularly.
'We tried hard against Afghanistan, but we were up against a bunch of professionals, who played aggressively, were mentally tougher and played with a lot of pride,' Dar said.