Hong Kong kept their unbeaten streak alive with another convincing victory, this time over Singapore, to reach the semi-finals at the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup in Kathmandu and ensure their ticket to the world qualifiers for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup next year.
"We are certain of our place in the world qualifiers [in October in the United Arab Emirates] and I believe we have a really good chance of winning one of the six places open to associate countries at next year's World Cup because we are playing some good cricket right now," said Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke.
The top two teams, other than Afghanistan and UAE, win berths at the world qualifiers. Afghanistan are automatic qualifiers by virtue or being in the top division among the associate countries while UAE qualify as hosts.
Burke said Hong Kong's 39-run victory over Singapore yesterday, which followed wins over Malaysia, Nepal and Maldives, was proof that the team, especially the batsmen, had reached new heights.
"Waqas Barkat, Irfan Ahmed and Nizakat Khan have all gone up a notch or two in their performance and this is an encouraging sign. They have been in fabulous form and have laid the foundation for our successes so far," Burke said.
And with top-order batsman Mark Chapman also available for the October tournament, things are looking up for Hong Kong. But the Jamie Atkinson-led team will want to finish in style by winning this tournament first.
"Last time we lost to Afghanistan in the final, we should have won. Our target this time is to win this event and the way we are playing, I'm confident we can have a crack at it," Burke said.
But Hong Kong will come up against Afghanistan in the semi-finals on Tuesday after UAE's shock six-wicket win over the defending champions yesterday.
"We always knew to win this tournament we would have to beat both the UAE and Afghanistan. It doesn't matter in what order we play them," said Burke.
Irfan continued his glorious run with a blistering 63 as Hong Kong reached 198 for three.
Barkat, who became the first Hong Kong batsman to ever score a century in a Twenty20 international (109 against the Maldives), continued his impressive run with an unbeaten 69 and shared a 91-run unbroken stand with Khan (41).
Hong Kong then restricted Singapore to 159 for eight. Burke said: "We could have finished it off earlier. We missed five chances in the field and that was disappointing.
"But it might not be a bad thing that we were challenged today after breezing through the other matches."