11 Mar 2018

2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier - Hong Kong v Zimbabwe

10th of March 2018

After a historic victory two days prior, Hong Kong were keen to keep this momentum going into their 3rd fixture of the tournament against an undefeated Zimbabwean team. The tournament hosts had won both of their games so far, and looked in good touch. A lot of attention had been put on getting the men refocused for this match, as a win here would all but secure a place in the Super 6’s stage of the tournament. 

With the forecast predicting a chance of rain, Babar won the toss and elected to field first, and the Zimbabwean openers got off to a flyer. Cephas Zuwao did the majority of the scoring, targeting Hong Kong’s spinners, taking 18 off one of Ehsan Khan’s overs. He was eventually dismissed at the backend of the 4th over, having made a significant impact of 45 from 25 balls. Solomon Mire continued to score at over a run a ball, and Hamilton Masakadza was hitting the ball very cleanly at the start of his innings. Mire fell to Nadeem Ahmed in the 10th over with the score at 2/83, which brought Brendan Taylor to the crease. Taylor and Masakadza showed their class and experience, combining for a 98 run partnership before Taylor fell to a fine catch from Anshy Rath at extra cover for 42. This began the start of Hong Kong’s fight back. After the start Zimbabwe had it looked like they were on track to score 320 plus, but some smart bowling and plan execution from the bowlers saw Zimbabwe somewhat crumble to finish on 264. Hong Kong’s bowlers closed out the innings terrifically, taking 6 for 80 in the last 22 overs. Credit must go to the teams seam attack. Ehsan Nawaz ended with 4/47 off his 9 overs, but a lot of this was made possible due to the pressure created by his two fellow seamers Aizaz Khan and Tanwir Afzal. With the keeper up to the stumps to all three of them, each did their role in clawing Hong Kong back into the game with spells of hard length bowling, making it hard for Zimbabwe’s batsman to find the boundary.   

The target set for Hong Kong was definitely one that every member of the team believed was attainable. With the required rate at a touch over 6 an over it was understood that a set batsman would need to be there at the end to get the group over the line. Nizakat Khan and Aizaz Khan both fell early, bringing Anshuman Rath to the crease to join his skipper with the score at 2-16 in the fourth over. A very different start to that of Zimbabwe’s, but the plan was to score steadily throughout and bat deep. Hayat was dismissed for 14 by a peach of a delivery from Graeme Cremer, and Scott Mckechnie was eventually bowled for 18 in the 27th over. At 4-94 the game was slipping out of Hong Kong’s grasp, but all that was required was for someone to support Rath at the other end. One big partnership very well could’ve changed the game, though wickets kept falling regularly. Rath was batting beautifully, showcasing his huge amount of talent against a Test Nation for the second time in 3 days. But unfortunately, none of the top 7 were able to be there with him towards the end. Rath was the last wicket to fall for a very well made 85 off 117 balls, leaving Hong Kong 89 runs short of their desired total.   

This loss means that it all comes down to the final group game against Nepal. If Hong Kong win, they are through to the Super 6’s, confirming their ODI status for the foreseeable future. If not, then a lot will depend on the playoff games on the 15th and 17th of March – but the team are determined to not let it get to this stage.