Ton of talent: Hong Kong skipper Tanwir Afzal hits century and takes two wickets
United Arab Emirates struggling in the second day of four-day ICC match in Dubai
Hong Kong skipper Tanwir Afzal showed no signs of nerves as he notched up 104 runs and then starred with the ball on day two of Hong Kong’s four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup clash against the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to secure a lead of 296 runs.
As Wednesday’s dust and heat gave way to rain and an unfamiliar coolness, Tanwir displayed enormous calm in his first four-day match as captain, returning to the crease a dangerous 10 runs short of the milestone. The skipper selectively struck the ball before charging a Raja Adeel delivery and smashing it over the boundary rope to bring up his maiden century, and the second for Hong Kong in two days.
When the skipper was dismissed two overs later for 104, Hong Kong had 330 runs on the scoreboard for the loss of seven wickets. The skipper had shared a 47-run partnership with debutant Aizaz Khan, who led a tail-end mission to add as many runs to the board as possible, with a measured 16. Ehsan Nawaz contributed 14 and number 11 Nadeem Ahmed struck 29 before lofting the ball to be caught at long-on and ending the Hong Kong innings at 378 all out just after lunch.
After lunch and a brief rain delay, Hong Kong’s bowling attack throttled the host’s batsmen, with Tanwir leading the way, claiming two quick scalps of Asif Iqbal (8) and Laxman Sreekumar (0) within 12 overs. The bowlers continued to pile on the pressure, with debutant Aizaz Khan and Ehsan Nawaz each picking up a wicket to help restrict the UAE to 82 runs in 54 overs, and a run rate of only 1.51.
Tanwir was delighted with his knock, but was quick to point out that team performance is more important than that of an individual. “It’s quite good for me, but forget my performance, it’s about team performance. And so far, the team is doing well so I am so happy, and I am looking forward to the next two days.
“I think we are quite lucky that we have young players, they are quite energetic and they have so much hunger. So it is really helpful, because they love to play cricket. That energy really helps us.
“On Middle East pitches, tosses really matter, so we are very lucky that we won the toss. The UAE team are quite experienced guys in this format, and this is just our second game, so the guys have shown up really well so far.”
The captain had a surprising summary of the changeable climate conditions. “I’ve not really played in such changing conditions before. It was quite good for us weather-wise when we started bowling, with the cloudy weather helping seam bowlers. We have four seam bowlers, so this kind of weather actually helped up.”
Reflecting on the first two days of the match, coach Simon Cook said: “Having any sort of lead is good, and a lead of nearly 300 is excellent. We probably would have liked a few more wickets. I thought the way our bowlers stuck to their task today out of the field, taking four wickets, only going just over 1.5 runs an over, was an outstanding over on that wicket, and what we’ve got to do is make sure we capitalize on that pressure tomorrow morning and not let them off the hook.”
The coach was delighted by the way his young charges were adapting to the longer format of the game: “There’s still a bit of work to be done but showing the guys how they can bat for 120 overs is outstanding. Two centurions – brilliant. A great platform up front with Kinchit and Babar, and then also to be able to bowl with control but also with purpose throughout the 50 overs today has been outstanding.”
“The weather has been another first for me. Dust storms yesterday and now rain in Dubai! It’s been more like an English summer’s day here, with the constant on and off, and having to stop and start. The guys have stuck at it really well and switch on when they need to.”
Twenty-two-year-old debutant and first time wicket-taker Aizaz Khan was happy with his maiden wicket wearing national colours: “It feels really good. It’s my first game and my first wicket for Hong Kong in first class cricket. The weather was really hot yesterday, and then today with the rain, it was really good to bowl in. With the overcast conditions, the ball was doing a bit, so it was good.”
“We are in a really good position after day two, we’re 296 runs in front. Hopefully we start again tomorrow and get a few wickets early on.”