16 March 2023
Hong Kong manage day one victory despite sight of Kuwait late-game resurgence
BY IRA GORAWARA
HONG KONG - When Kuwait needed 135 runs with just one wicket in hand, signs of a Hong Kong victory were looming, and pressure was released off the home side.
Ten wicket-less overs later, Hong Kong were at their wits’ end as Bilal Tahir reached 87 runs off just 68 balls, constituting six fours and eight maximums.
An impressive show of batting by Hong Kong’s right-hand opener Anshuman Rath and right-hand batsman Babar Hayat early in the hosts’ innings, compensating for the premature dismissal of right-hand opening bat, captain Nizakat Khan.
“Captain Khan” was down on his haunches when he was sent back to the pavilion with just one run on the board, following an LBW courtesy of left-arm medium-pace bowler Ilyas Ahmed. A duplex of half-centuries from Rath and Hayat squashed any Kuwaiti comfort from N. Khan’s dismissal.
With arguably Hong Kong’s two most dangerous batsmen together on the pitch, trouble ensued for Kuwait as the duo managed a 23-over partnership that saw both delivering a half-century of their own to Hong Kong’s total and putting Hong Kong on a good cushion to anticipate a total of around 270+, forcing a competitive chase for their opponents.
Hong Kong’s first eight boundaries came off the magic of Rath’s batting, propelling Hong Kong to a solid and steady 45 runs after the first ten overs. The next 16.5 overs of play saw no end to Rath and Hayat’s partnership, which had reached 97 runs by then.
But as the halfway mark of Hong Kong’s innings approached, Hayat’s attempt at a second run instead forced his own dismissal from the crease as he realized he was in dire straits.
With the partnership thus coming to a halt, it took a matter of 11 balls for the other half of the duo to begin his walk back to the Hong Kong dugout. Right-arm off-spin bowler Adnan Idrees reached the underneath edge of Rath’s bat as the ball bounced down and then popped back up to clip the top of the leg stump, and it was farewell to the opener.
Left-hand batsmen Kinchit Shah and Yasim Murtaza could not get a spark for Hong Kong. After dot-ball pressure was causing stress to the home side, Murtaza went for a premeditated sweep facing a slower throw from Idrees, ultimately sending him off the field for Hong Kong.
At five wickets down by the 38th over, the 270+ mark for Hong Kong was an overestimate; a reassessment placed the target at 220 runs.
Ultimately, Hong Kong’s all-rounder Haroon Arshad and right-arm off-spin bowler Ehsan Khan kept their side in the contest, maintaining somewhat of a competitive total. Both struck at a rate above a run a ball, tallying 32 and 33 runs, respectively, changing Hong Kong’s trajectory.
Commencing the second innings, it was Hong Kong’s youngsters, right-arm fast bowler Ayush Shukla and right-arm medium fast bowler Nasrulla Rana, creating all sorts of issues for Kuwait.
A pivotal opening burst from Hong Kong in the first three overs saw Kuwait limited to nine runs with one wicket down early. Coming off an impressive 37-run performance by right-hand bat Ravija Sandaruwan, Shukla landed his attempt into the hands of Mohammad Ghazanfar.
Despite two dropped catches off his bowling, Shukla proved his quick comeback into Hong Kong’s 11 as he took the second wicket and sent Idrees back to the pavilion. The youngster was unavailable for the T20I series.
Kuwait managed a series of boundaries in the next few overs to swell their run rate until a third Shukla wicket saw the dismissal of right-hand batsman Mohammad Amin's four boundaries were creating the damage.
“I’m impressed with his control of line and length and his ability to swing the ball,” said coach Simon Willis. “So for me, it was give him the new ball, let him make the most of the Kookaburra while it swung and see what he can do, and he certainly showed what he’s capable of.”
Soon after, Rana joined in the act with his first of three wickets, dismissing left-hand batsman Meet Bhavsar before he could tally any boundaries for his side.
The next two wickets also fell under Rana’s name. Rana made it easy for his fielders, forcing his third wicket of right-hand batsman Mohammed Aslam to backward point right underneath the safe hands of Rath, who didn’t have to take a step to secure the catch.
More than half of Kuwait’s squad was back in the dugout, with Hong Kong’s fast-bowling youngsters taking all six wickets in Kuwait’s chase. Twenty overs into the competitive chase, no partnership was cultivated for Kuwait, with 20% of their runs emerging from false shots of Rana’s bowling, including three outside edges with a bounce to the rope and one top edge that went for a six.
A nip in the bud of Hong Kong’s success was nearing as Tahir took the pitch following Aslam’s dismissal.
The fall of Kuwait’s seventh and eighth wicket transpired soon after Tahir entered the field. The econd was a flawless display of captaincy in the covers from Captain Khan, a testament to the N. Khan’s awareness and anticipation in the field.
Kuwait’s penultimate wicket, seeing the ousting of Ahmed, was still not enough to create a dent in Tahir’s stint, who ultimately put up 87 runs off just 68 deliveries.
It was the Tahir show as soon as the left-hand batsman appeared on the field. After Hong Kong managed the ninth wicket while conceding only 110 runs, control of the game was largely in their hands. Kuwait needed 135 runs with just one wicket in hand; predictions for victory were not in their favor.
The nerves were put into Hong Kong in those next 95 wicket-less runs. With six fours and eight sixes, Tahir was ushering his squad within a fraction of victory as Kuwait now only required 45 runs in more than five overs of play.
And then, Arshad managed the Hong Kong breakthrough with his beautifully-timed delivery that tempted a pull to the leg boundary right into the hands of Shukla.
Despite Kuwait nearly grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat, Hong Kong emerged victorious to come away with a win in the first of their OD Triangular Series.
After defeating them in the T20I Quadrangular Series finals this past Sunday, Hong Kong encounters Malaysia again this Friday, March 17, to take them on in the OD format.