13 Mar 2018

2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier - Hong Kong v Nepal


The final round of the group stage saw Hong Kong come up against Nepal in a do-or-die fixture for the men in red. A win would see them guaranteed a place in the Super 6’s and ODI status until 2022, but a loss would see them have to battle it out against two other associates in the playoffs for the final ODI status available. 

 

Babar won the toss and elected to bat first – the plan being to let the batsman put a score in excess of 240 on the board, and hope the wicket deteriorates so that the spinners could run through the Nepalese lineup. A slightly rejigged team saw Carter open alongside Nizakat, but he fell for 9 in the 6th over. Hayat got on with his business in a positive manner, scoring 20 off 16 before being caught and bowled, leaving the score at 2 for 53 in the 11th over. According to the coaching staff’s targets, the team was on track for their desired score, with the first target being 45 for 1 after 10 overs, which was hit dead on. The next ten overs saw things start to go downhill, as batsman struggled to get in and go on; with only 26 runs being added to the score for the loss of 3 wickets. Nizakat Khan, the only batsman with a start, was dismissed for 47 in the 29th over, seeing that period of ten overs finish with the score on 108 for 6 - again, only a small amount of runs being added for the loss of another 2 wickets. With 20 overs left in the innings, it was always going to be a hard ask of the lower order to try salvage a score of over 200. That being said, an inability to rotate the strike in overs 30 to 40 saw a mere 11 runs added to the total. The Nepalese spinners were controlling the game, and unfortunately, not a lot was being done by Hong Kong’s batsman to try and counter.  Dot balls chewed up a lot of the remaining overs, and despite a late little partnership from Nawaz and Ehsan Khan, Nepal took their 10th and final wicket in the 48th over, leaving them with a below-par score of 154 to chase. 

 

For yet another game the bowling cartel was left with a small total to try and defend. To their credit, they had done a magnificent job of this so far in the tournament, and if Hong Kong were to have any chance of avoiding another visit to Kwekwe, they would need to do it again. Nepal’s intentions were clear from the first over, with Nadeem’s second ball being sent over long on for a towering maximum. With the keeper up to the stumps from a relatively early point in the game, Hong Kong’s plan was to build up pressure through dot balls and hope that the Nepalese play a rash shot. Aizaz had Sah caught behind at the end of the 9th, with the score on 41, and he picked up the other opening batsman with a nice catch off his own bowling. Nepal’s main batsman and the backbone of their team, Paras Khakda, looked aggressive from the onset, but he was bowled by Tanwir in the 16th over, seeing the score slump to 3 for 58. At this point, Hong Kong was well and truly in the game. Spirits were high, and there was a genuine belief that this game was winnable. Ehsan Khan came into the attack and took another two quick wickets, seeing the momentum swing completely in Hong Kong’s favor. The score was 5-66, but a dropped chance off Aizaz’s bowling seemed to deflate much of the spirit that Hong Kong had. From this point, much of the pressure fell away, and Nepal's batsman began to find it easier to milk runs. The field was continuously becoming more and more defensive, but it wasn’t enough to stop Nepal. They chased the target of 154 in the 40th over, with the fifth wicket partnership totaling 89 runs. Special mention must go to Tanwir Afzaal, who finished with figures of 1 for 7 off 8 overs. 

 

Definitely a game that was within Hong Kong’s grasp at one point, but it was not to be for the men in red today. This result means that the team must travel to Kwekwe for two playoff matches, the first being against the Dutch on the 15th of March.