HK up against it after losing opening qualifier
Hong Kong's bad habit of starting international tournaments on a losing note surfaced again after Nepal scored a comfortable 28-run victory in the opening pool game at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers.
The result left head coach Charlie Burke shaking his head in disbelief, not only at a poor performance in all departments by Hong Kong, but also at this annoying pattern of losing the opening game.
'Every single tournament we have played in the last couple of years since I have been in charge, we have got off to a poor start. This is deja vu,' said Burke.
He does not have to go back too far to find an example. Three months ago, Hong Kong lost to the same opponents at the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 tournament in Kathmandu.
Then, Hong Kong rebounded strongly and won their remaining games to storm into the final and book a berth for these qualifiers.
However, it is a different picture this time as the remaining opposition is of much higher quality, which will only increase the pressure on the youthful team led by Jamie Atkinson (pictured).
Burke agreed that Hong Kong's backs were against the wall: 'We are already in a must-win situation for every game. We cannot afford to lose any more games as it will only make our task more difficult.'
Everything which could go wrong did yesterday as the 16-team tournament began. Hong Kong conceded about 20 to 25 runs too many in the field after Nepal opted to bat first and posted a score of 130 for six.
A number of catches were dropped and there were overthrows and mis-fields which let Nepal wriggle out of trouble.
In the bowling department, Hong Kong sent down six wides with the chief culprit being opening bowler Daljeet Singh. In a bid to make up his quota of four overs, Atkinson was forced to rely on Roy Lamsam and Aizaz Khan but they proved expensive too, underlining the problem of the lack of a fifth bowler.
And if any of the other four frontline bowlers - Irfan Ahmed, Munir Dar, Asif Khan and Nizakat Khan - should have an off day, things could turn nasty fast for Hong Kong in their remaining six pool games.
Yet a target of 131 - this was mainly due to a sterling knock of 68 from Nepal skipper Paras Khadka - was more than achievable if a sensible approach had been adopted. But the run-chase was a shambles from the first over when Irfan, having sweetly driven the first ball to the mid-on fence, chased after a wide delivery to get a thick edge right down the throat of third man.
It laid the tone for the rest of the batsmen who squandered their wickets mainly to poor shot selection as Hong Kong stumbled to 102 for nine.
'We didn't play smart cricket. All we needed to do was to rotate the strike and get partnerships going. But our decision-making was very poor. It is a real shame as we let them off the hook, when bowling as well as when we were batting,' Burke said.
Irfan's departure was followed by another quick blow with Atkinson being dismissed lbw. The skipper had looked in good touch, hitting three sweet boundaries, and was probably the only Hong Kong batsman who did not get out to a soft dismissal.
'We had guys hitting into the wind and offering simple catches. We lost momentum on too many occasions,' Burke said.
Hong Kong will have no time to recover. They play four games on consecutive days with Bermuda their opponents today.
Both top-seeded teams in Hong Kong's pool, Afghanistan and the Netherlands, got off to winning starts, but the biggest shock of the day came in the other pool when Namibia defeated Ireland by four runs.