Irfan Ahmed on another level as Hong Kong beat Nepal to reach Super Sixes
Spurred on by another superb knock from Irfan Ahmed, Hong Kong became the first team to book their place in the World Cup qualifying Super Sixes after they hammered Nepal by 10 wickets in New Zealand.
Irfan hit an unbeaten 86 and together with fellow opener Waqas Barkat (56 not out) guided Hong Kong to a commanding victory, overhauling the modest target of 150 set by Nepal with more than 16 overs to spare at Rangiora Oval, Christchurch.
"Irfan is playing on a different level to the rest of us and is in the best form of his career," said player-coach Mark Wright. "He is a breath of fresh air and long may his form continue as he has made it look simple for us."
Following wins over Scotland and Canada, the latest triumph has earned unbeaten Hong Kong a place in the Super Sixes, featuring the top three teams from each pool. The top two teams from the Super Sixes qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Hong Kong have one more pool game to play, against the United Arab Emirates.
"You take the points into the Super Sixes from the teams you beat in the pool competition," Wright added. "In our case, if Scotland and UAE advance with us into the last six, we would take four points with us if we beat UAE, having already beaten Scotland. So our last pool game is going to be very important as both Scotland and UAE are set to join us in the Super Sixes."
Hong Kong won the toss and skipper Jamie Atkinson opted to field first with the wicket promising to support Hong Kong's seamers. And he was proved right as Haseeb Amjad and Tanwir Afzal reduced Nepal to four for 17 in the first six overs.
"There was life in the wicket and our seamers bowled superbly up front by claiming the top four or five batsmen. Nepal did well to come back and post 150, but the damage had been done," Wright said.
Some last-minute heroics from Basant Regmi and the lower order saw Nepal scrap together 85 runs and recover from 65 for eight. But Irfan and Waqas steered Hong Kong home in fine fashion.
Irfan blasted eight boundaries and four sixes in his 86 to take his aggregate to 261 from three matches.
"It was another fantastic effort all round. We have achieved our first target, which was to qualify for the Super Sixes, but there is still a lot to play for," added Wright.