10 March 2023
Despite prospective of Kuwait’s late-game resurgence, Hong Kong assures second consecutive victory
BY IRA GORAWARA
HONG KONG - Before the 16th over of Kuwait’s innings, the contest was largely in the hands of the Hong Kong men as Kuwait was striking at a run rate half of what was required. But by the end of the 18th, Kuwait had mustered an efficient 48 runs in just 18 deliveries to reintroduce themselves in the contest.
Courtesy of leg-spin bowler Mohammad Ghazanfar, Hong Kong ensured their seventh wicket with a leg-before to Shiraz Khan. Amidst commotion from the crowd, the cheer “Go Ghazza” was most noticeable, as he posted his first wicket of the matchup.
But after commencing the 16th over losing allrounder Shiraz Khan, Kuwait flipped the script after losing seven wickets in just 14 overs of play, compared to their opponents who had only conceded four wickets by the time.
Cricket is one of, if not the most, rapidly oscillating sport. The trajectory of a game can change course in a matter of a few balls or a few strikes.
Left-hand batsman Bilal Tahir took matters into his own hands with a back-to-back duplex of maximums against Ghazanfar, putting up a lightning twelve runs in just two balls. In the span of just two distributions, pouches of anticipation and hope inched Kuwait back into the game.
As allrounder Aizaz Khan took the pitch for his third clip, an early Sayed Monib six sailed miles over the top of any fielder, setting the tone for the over which wound up awarding Kuwait an additional 20 runs to their total, dispelling fears of a blowout loss whilst ushering sight of a late-game victory.
At the end of over 17, there was a seeming twist in the tail of the game for Kuwaiti fans.
Right-arm off-break bowler Ehsan Khan continued his spell in the 18th over, opening the six-ball clip with a much-needed dot-ball for Hong Kong. After a couple of singles, the stagnant start to the over was thwarted by a Tahir four, which split the long-off and long-on bowlers to blow directly over the boundary.
An inside edge kept the next ball of the over at just two runs, but the culminating ball cleared the fence at deep mid-wicket to cap the over off with another 14 runs.
Kuwait entered the final two overs requiring just 21 runs to secure victory.
And then, right-arm medium-pace bowler Haroon Arshad squashed any Kuwaiti hopes of resurgence and assured a compelling Hong Kong defeat was still to be seen.
With two wickets in the penultimate over alongside just three runs, Arshad executed a nerveless, decisive penultimate over in a tremendous display of death-bowling. He managed the Hong Kong breakthrough as his first delivery was a top-edge that landed in the safe hands of captain Nizakat Khan.
Soon after, Arshad’s slow full toss bowled out Mohammed Shafeeq to bring down Kuwait’s ninth wicket. His final dot-ball completed the 19th over and allowed him to clinch 3/19 (4) figures, enough for Player of the Match recognition.
“Going into the 19th over, the game plan was clear,” Arshad said. “They were trying to aim their boundaries on the leg side and my plan was just to bowl slow outside off stump, make them hit to the long boundary, and at the end that’s what they did and I got a wicket”
In a 20th over by Ehsan Khan, Hong Kong defended their total of 161 and emerged with their second straight victory of the series. Ultimately, it came down to the squad’s impressive death bowling.
“I’m very pleased to see the players take on board their learnings from yesterday with both bat and ball,” said coach Simon Wallis. “Our commitment and skills in the field were impressive but our death bowling under pressure once again proved the difference.”
Hong Kong’s 161 in the first innings was set early by N. Khan and left-handed batsman Anshuman Rath’s 28-run partnership that gave Hong Kong an aggressive start and a solid foundation for subsequent players to build off of.
N. Khan was first to exit, as his stumping ended his stint at 20 runs off just nine deliveries to amass a rate of 222.22. Despite the fall of N. Khan, right-hand batsman Babar Hayat, and left-hand batsman Kinchit Shah in back-to-back-to-back overs, Rath stayed steady and poised in his innings, falling to Tahir much later in the 16th over after he contributed a crucial 57 runs off 42 deliveries.
By the time of Rath’s ousting, wicketkeeper/right-hand batsman Adit Gorawara had taken the field, making his T20 International debut for Hong Kong. Gorawara’s efficient eruption with 20 runs off just 14 balls including a massive six over square leg and two pivotal fours was the difference for Hong Kong.
Ultimately, the hosts’ triumph marked their highest Twenty20 total as well as their first final at home in 5 years of T20 International Cricket. With today’s win, they secure themselves a spot in the T20 Quadrangular Series finals against Malaysia.
The morning matchup between Malaysia and Bahrain saw a convincing 53-run defeat by the former. This win was led by Muhammad Amir, who cumulated 80 runs off 52 balls to be named Player of the Match.
Before the consolation game and finals on Sunday, the set matchups take on each other in round-robin play to get a taste of Sunday’s contests. Bahrain sees Kuwait at 9:30 a.m. HKT before the two undefeated teams, Hong Kong and Malaysia, take each other on at 1:40 p.m. HKT.