Against the odds, the Hong Kong women's cricket team have qualified for next year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Hong Kong, despite missing four or five of their best players, finished fourth at the Asian Cricket Council Women's Championship in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week to secure a place at the Asian Games, which will feature cricket for only the second time.
"It was a really good effort considering that we were without a number of our top players," said Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke. "We fielded a very young team and it is very creditable they have clinched us a berth at the Asian Games."
Among those missing in action were leading pair Connie Wong Ar-yan and Keenu Gill, both banned for a year by the Hong Kong Cricket Association for withdrawing from the national squad who took part in the ACC Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup in Guangzhou last October. The pair pulled out after skipper Neisha Pratt was dropped because of eligibility issues.
Forced to field a young squad, Hong Kong performed above expectations in Chiang Mai, winning three preliminary-round games to enter the semi-finals and thus secure an Asian Games slot.
Hong Kong lost to China in the semi-finals, and then lost to Nepal in the third place play-off.
"It is now up to the Hong Kong Olympic Committee to decide if they want to send a women's team to South Korea next year. We have done what is required and qualified for the Asian Games," Burke added.
The Hong Kong women failed to make it out of the preliminary round at the 2010 Asian Games.
Meanwhile, the men's team, who reached the quarter-finals in 2010, are already assured of their berth but once again their presence in Incheon will depend on the local Olympic committee. Cricket at the Asian Games is the Twenty20 version.