Afghans dash HK's hopes of a top-three pool finish
Hong Kong briefly toyed with the idea of calling up a replacement, but even Superman himself would not be able to resurrect their campaign at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers after Afghanistan handed out a nine-wicket thrashing yesterday.
The defeat ends any lingering flicker of hope that Hong Kong could finish in the top three at the end of the pool competition and thus be in contention for a place in the knockout phase.
Despite their hopes of winning one of two berths at this September's ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka being dashed, coach Charlie Burke, faced with a team of walking wounded, was contemplating flying in the cavalry in the form of a replacement player. He has shelved that plan, even though the ICC has given the green light.
'We are down three players at the moment and can barely manage a starting eleven,' Burke said. 'Even these players are carrying niggles and we thought a replacement would be handy as we have three more games left, one pool game and two for the final placings. But considering how soon we can get a replacement, we have decided not to go ahead with the plan.'
Among the injured was skipper Jamie Atkinson, out with a strained hamstring; young bowler Asif Khan, caught between the eye by a ball hit by Atkinson in practice; and Munir Dar, who has been ruled out of any further part in the tournament due to a rolled ankle. Dar played yesterday, but his lean patch of form in Dubai in the previous five pool games carried on to Sharjah, the venue for the clash against top seeds Afghanistan who looked every bit a professional outfit as they restricted Hong Kong to 103 for nine and then swept to victory with more than eight overs to spare.
The only highlight for Hong Kong was the batting of Irfan Ahmed.
The opener hit his third half-century of the tournament, a dazzling 54 including two sixes and three fours, and was the only bright spark in an otherwise drab day for Hong Kong.
'Irfan batted beautifully and looked a million dollars,' Burke said.
It took an extraordinary catch on the long-on boundary to end his innings, and with his departure the rest of the batting collapsed meekly. The only other batsman to reach double figures was Waqas Barkat (16).
'Even though they chased the target down swiftly, I felt if we had reached 130-plus, we could have exerted a bit of pressure on them,' Burke said.
'But they are a very experienced side and play a lot of ODI cricket and it showed today.'
Hong Kong will meet the Netherlands in their final pool game today.
Hong Kong defeated Denmark with a margin of this many runs in the 34th match on Sunday