Hong Kong ease past Nepal to close in on world qualifiers
Playing at home and in front of thousands of their fans, Nepal were always considered a huge threat but Hong Kong brushed aside the hosts with minimum fuss to record their second successive six-wicket win in as many days at the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup in Kathmandu yesterday.
A 70-run partnership for the third wicket between vice-captain Waqas Barkat and Nizakat Khan helped Hong Kong breeze to the winning target of 116 for the loss of four wickets with more than three overs to spare. Following the opening win over Malaysia, Hong Kong are well-placed to top pool A in the 10-team competition.
Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke had spoken of the importance of "momentum" and with two wins in a row, Hong Kong's campaign to book one of two berths available for Asia (Afghanistan are already assured an automatic berth) for the world qualifiers for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup is gathering pace.
Hong Kong have two more pool games against Maldives and Singapore and, with both considered the weakest teams in the group, are well on their way to securing a berth in the last four.
Irfan Ahmed hogged the limelight with his outstanding knock of 87 against Malaysia, and yesterday it was the turn of older brother Nadeem, whose left-arm spin accounted for dangerman Paras Khadka as Hong Kong restricted Nepal to 115 for nine after the home team chose to bat first.
Nadeem finished with three for 18 from his allotted four overs and received good support from Tanvir Afzal (2-21) and Aizaz Khan (2-23). Irfan also bowled a tight spell, conceding just 21 runs from his four overs.
Irfan, who hammered six sixes and 10 fours in his innings against Malaysia, was once again in fine touch as he reached 30 off 16 deliveries (two sixes and three fours) but was dismissed going for an ambitious shot. Skipper Jamie Atkinson followed a few balls later with Hong Kong stuck on the same score of 41, but Nizakat was the picture of composure as he steadied the ship with a fine unbeaten 42, and together with Waqas (39) saw Hong Kong home.
"It was another fine all-round performance from the guys, especially playing in front of all the home fans," said Burke. "I'm pleased that everything came together but we still have a long way to go."
Hong Kong will have a rest day today before meeting the Maldives tomorrow. In the other half of the draw, favourites Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates remain unbeaten.