Irfan Ahmed bludgeoned Malaysia into submission as Hong Kong got their campaign to book a berth in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers off to a winning start in Kathmandu with a six-wicket victory yesterday.
Irfan first bowled a tight spell as Hong Kong restricted Malaysia to just 103 in the opening game at the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup. He then made it a double-act, opening the run-chase by hammering 87, including six sixes, as the small target was quickly overhauled and with eight overs to spare.
"It was a fantastic knock from Irfan and he deservedly won the Man-of-the-Match award too," said pleased Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke. "This is the perfect start we needed and it will give us the momentum to carry through to the rest of the tournament."
Only two berths are up for grabs for the World qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates in November, and Hong Kong will need to finish in the final of the 10-team tournament, or finish in the top three if Afghanistan - who have already qualified - are in the top two.
"Everything fell into place today. We put them into bat and our bowling and fielding was from the top drawer. We bowled good lines and put pressure on them, with Irfan, Tanvir [Afzaal] and Nizakat [Khan] outstanding," Burke said. "Then we didn't let them back into the game with Irfan taking it away from them with powerful batting."
Irfan's knock off just 39 deliveries also included 10 fours resulting in 76 of his 87 runs coming from boundaries. No other Hong Kong batsman made it into double figures.
The win will be a boost before today's game against hosts Nepal, which could decide if Hong Kong finish top or second in a five-team pool that also includes Maldives and Singapore.
"It will be a tough game. They will have 10,000 screaming fans urging them on but we are quietly confident," Burke said. Nepal defeated Hong Kong in this same event two years ago.