Mark Chapman and the rest of the middle order batsmen have been told to step up their game as Hong Kong face their most important match in recent times on Wednesday against Nepal in a play-off for a semi-final spot as well as direct qualification for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year.
Left-hander Chapman, batting at number four or five, has had a lean run in the 16-team qualifying tournament in the United Arab Emirates, and coach Charlie Burke has called on the talented teenager to deliver and show the way forward for the misfiring middle order, who have failed to carry on the good work of the top order in crucial matches.
"The middle order has to start taking more responsibility," Burke said. "We were very lucky to pip UAE [United Arab Emirates] to second spot in the overall standings at the end of the group games and earn a play-off against Nepal. We could easily have finished third, which would have given us a tougher outing against the Netherlands first up."
Hong Kong and UAE finished on the same number of points - 10 - after both won five matches and lost two. But Hong Kong had the better net run-rate, +0.440 against +0.269, to finish runners-up to unbeaten Ireland in pool A. Afghanistan topped pool B followed by the Dutch and Nepal. Ireland and Afghanistan have qualified and reached the semi-finals by finishing on top.
Hong Kong will now meet Nepal (the match being televised worldwide) and a win will earn them a spot in the last four of the qualifiers. A loss will see Hong Kong taking on the winners of the play-off between Namibia and Italy for another crack at finishing in the top six and booking a ticket to Bangladesh.
Chapman has a top score of 16 in five innings and, like Babar Hayat and Munir Dar, has struggled to find their touch. Luckily, skipper Jamie Atkinson and the top order have been in fine form. Atkinson has aggregated more than 200 runs and has led from the front with deputy Waqas Barkat, Irfan Ahmed and Nizakat Khan all contributing to Hong Kong's superb run.
The top six teams from the 16-team associate qualifiers were originally to play in a 16-team ICC World Twenty20 next year. But the ICC modified the competition with the six qualifiers now taking on the bottom two full members - Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - to decide which two go into the main event, which is now a 10-team tournament.