HK bow out as batsmen fail to set tough target

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am

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The dream of appearing in a World Cup is over. Hong Kong were left gutted after a stirring fightback fell agonisingly short against Papua New Guinea who clinched a pulsating victory with one ball to spare at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers yesterday.

Only eight spectators were present at the cavernous Dubai International Cricket Stadium but they were treated to a tense thriller which see-sawed right to the very end when young Hong Kong bowler Aizaz Khan couldn't quite hold his nerve, conceding 13 runs from the last over as PNG successfully chased down a modest total of 131.

Losing as they did to Nepal and Canada - the first game by 28 runs and the second by eight wickets - was not as crushing to the spirits as yesterday's loss, for Hong Kong came so close to what would have been a sensational comeback win.

The result all but ruled out Hong Kong's hopes of finishing in the top three of their eight-team pool and keeping alive their chances of featuring in the knockout stages of this 16-team tournament which will decide the two associate countries to play in the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September. 'This is very disappointing. The dream is over unless something really amazing happens like the other teams failing to turn up at the grounds and every other result going our way,' said Hong Kong head coach Charlie Burke.

'We fought back well after being restricted to what was a below-par score, but so many little things could have been done better and we weren't quite able to do that.'

Things like building partnerships - Hong Kong only had one reasonable stand between skipper Jamie Atkinson and Babar Hayat, a 38-run liaison - or for set batsmen to carry on and get a sizeable score left Hong Kong about 15 runs short of what would have been a good total.

Once again, Atkinson had to carry the load after Irfan Ahmed was dismissed early going for a big shot. Atkinson top-scored with 50, and was lucky to survive a chance on 17 when he drove uppishly to long-on where the fielder on the ropes misjudged the catch coming in only to see the ball sail over his head.

Atkinson went on to score his second half-century of the tournament before holing out to deep extra cover for 52. His departure left Hong Kong on 100 for five in the 16th over. The remaining batsmen managed just another 31 runs off the last 26 balls.