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Match Report - Hong Kong vs Kuwait - APC Group Hong Kong One Day Series - 19th March 2023

Ehsan Khan steers Hong Kong to suppressing Kuwait near-victory

BY IRA GORAWARA

HONG KONG - Kuwait didn’t allow their six-year void of international cricket to stump their capacity of putting up a formidable fight against the home side.

When Kuwait was thirty runs short of par at the 10-over mark, the pendulum favored the hosts, who posted a competitive total of 268 runs in the first innings.

Amidst overcast weather conditions and moisture underneath the pitch, taking control of the toss was crucial. Kuwait captain Mohammad Aslam called the better side of the coin and gave his squad an initial advantage with the ball.

But even the strong winds and rainy climate weren’t enough to force a dent in Anshuman’s Rath innings. Rath followed his 130 opening performance against Malaysia the day before with another half-century.

A sound 128-run partnership between Rath and Babar Hayat was forced to an end after Rath’s dismissal, as he exited the pitch with visible frustration. Rath attempted to go against the spin but could not find the placement or elevation. Regardless, his efforts in propelling Hong Kong to 154 before the 30-over mark was met with great ovations from the Hong Kong dugout.

Dot ball pressure weighed on Hong Kong as left-hand batsman Yasim Murtaza lost patience and attempted the big shot on the leg side, only to be met with a wonderful catch in the outfield. Tensions rose for Hong Kong as they had lost more than half their team early in the last ten overs.

A slow start for Hong Kong’s wicketkeeper-batsman Zeeshan Ali barely hindered his innings. He eventually managed 17 runs off the penultimate over to add to his impactful 44-run total.

After losing four wickets in the last two overs, Hong Kong lost all their men, and a 268 total faced the Kuwaiti batsmen.

Two quick wickets from Haroon Arshad put Meet Bhavsar and Muhammad Amin to the pitch and set the stage for what became a 72-run partnership and 18-year-old Bhavsar's first 50-over half-century performance for Kuwait.

As Kuwait was inching towards the par score by the start of the 40th over, Sayed Monib and Bilal Tahir, Kuwait’s biggest hitters, got going. Coupled with favorable weather conditions, the pendulum was oscillating towards Kuwait. Monib raced into double figures as he struck back-to-back deliveries in his opening over.

As crucial wickets followed double-digit overs, the game trajectory was regularly changing. Throughout the final ten overs, it was anyone’s game. A thriller was upon us in the last three overs.

Back-to-back sixes from right-hand batsman Shahrukh Quddus had bowler Ayush Shukla’s down on his haunches - Kuwait needed just eight off 20 more deliveries. Representing the back-and-forth track of the entire game, the next ball saw Quddus’ dismissal off a Shukla yorker.

A decisive Captain Khan sent right-arm off-spin Ehsan Khan in for the 48th over, with Kuwait needing just six runs to win with 12 balls in hand.

“I made sure Ehsan kept his overs for the death and made sure he bowled those overs,” N. Khan said. “I knew that two or three wickets would win us the game.”

After Kuwait was trying to see out E. Khan’s final over of what had been a destructive spell from the Player of the Final, the off-spinner manifested his death-bowling abilities with a wicket of Yasin Patel to put an end to this nail-biting final. E. Khan finished the game conceding just 39 runs while handing out four wickets.

Exactly a week ago, similar death-bowling from E. Khan crowned his side champions of the T20I Quadrangular Series. Today, nothing changed from the bowler, and Hong Kong emerged victorious to secure the No. 1 berth in the 50-over series.