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Match Report - Hong Kong, China vs Kuwait - ACC Men's Premier Cup 2023 - 27th April 2023

Kuwait eliminate Hong Kong men from shot at Asia Cup


KATHMANDU, NP - After three convincing defeats, the Hong Kong men collapsed to Kuwait in the final stage of round-robin play to see their way out of the ACC Premier Cup.

Despite defeating them in both the ODI and T20 format earlier this year, Hong Kong’s familiar foes handed them their first tournament loss in what was virtually a quarterfinal round.

Ahead of Thursday’s matchup, the squads were positioned at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, with Hong Kong a singular point ahead of their adversary. The contest's victor would join UAE in the top two standings and secure a berth in the tournament semifinals.

The loss of Rajiva Sandaruwan and Parvindar Kumar within the first four overs granted Hong Kong an early command of the game. Mimicking his performance from the tournament's first two games, right-arm fast bowler Ayush Shukla once again managed Hong Kong’s first wicket, dislodging opener Sandaruwan from his crease.

Right-arm medium-pace bowler Haroon Arshad cut Kumar’s innings before the right-hand batsman could enter double-digit figures. A clever piece of bowling found the gap between pad and bat and gave Hong Kong the early control it wanted.

A partnership between Kuwait captain Mohammad Aslam and Adnan Idrees flourished before the established Idrees became Kuwait’s third lost warrior. A subsequent ousting of Meet Bhavsar rejected Kuwait's attempts at steadying the innings.

As Hong Kong’s right-arm off-spin bowler Ehsan Khan slightly removed one crown of the stumps, minimal damage furnished a maximum damage outcome to Kuwait. With four gone before the twenty-over mark, nerves ran through the Kuwaiti dugout.

Combating early woes in the Kuwait innings, Shiraz Khan built decisive partnerships with both Usman Patel and Sayeed Monib to propel his squad from 108 for five to 243 for the loss of seven.

“We started well with the ball,” Hong Kong captain Nizakat Khan said. “But in the middle, we gave up a lot of runs. Our fielding was not up to standard.”

Despite the dismissal of all three by the conclusion of the 50 overs, the Kuwaiti lineup had done enough to force Hong Kong to at least 274 runs to keep their chances at qualification alive.

Despite a steady start for Hong Kong, two critical ousting quickly provoked unease in the squad. Within the first ten overs, both of Hong Kong’s tournament centurions were sent on their way.

With a strike rate of just 50, Anshuman Rath tried to get a move on to spur run-production for his side. Instead, the left-hand bat was moved back to the Hong Kong pavilion. Hong Kong’s “run-machine” Babar Hayat followed suit, surrendering his wicket without troubling the scorers. Kuwaiti bowlers uttered triumphant hurrahs as they heard the death rattle of the stumps beating Hayat’s defence.

An imperative 90-run partnership materialized for Hong Kong, with right-hand batsman Aizaz Khan joining captain Khan on the pitch. In an impressive display of high-pressure counterattack batting, the two worked in tandem to anchor Hong Kong's endeavours with the stick.

This was until the two Khans vacated their creases in twelve balls. Hong Kong’s next two batsmen, Zeeshan Ali and Yasim Murtaza, managed a 56-run partnership, situating the side at 206-5 by the 44-over mark. Comparatively, Kuwait saw a 215-6 total at the same stage – it was still anyone’s game.

This was until a collapse of Hong Kong’s lower middle order forced a near-impossible 34-run effort required from the tailenders in the final over.

“The last three wickets we lost, lost us the game,” N. Khan said. “Aizaz batted really well. We held this partnership but couldn’t finish the game.”

When Mohammad Ghazanfar’s final ball landed directly in the hands of Idrees, Hong Kong was 30 runs short with no wickets and no overs to spare.

Kuwait has advanced to the ACC Premier Cup Semifinals, and Hong Kong is headed home.

“One bad game, and we are out of the tournament,” N. Khan said. “That’s cricket. We have to make sure we make a lot of takeaways from this game moving forward.”