12 March 2023
Hong Kong pulls away with victory in the 20th over after getting the better of a tense chase
BY IRA GORAWARA
HONG KONG - After forcing Malaysia to their second-lowest score in their T20 International history, Hong Kong men still found difficulty in their chase.
The incoming finalists met each other in the last matchup of round-robin play in preparation for the T20I Quadrangular Series finals on Sunday. By winning their first two games against Kuwait and Bahrain, Malaysia and Hong Kong clinched positions in Sunday’s final contest.
Earlier in the day, Bahrain and Kuwait took the field to finish their round-robin play and prepare for their consolation game on Sunday after two losses each in the series. Bahrain’s right-hand bat Imran Anwar propelled his squad to triumph, with 87 runs off just 52 deliveries on top of 3/22 (4) figures in his bowling spell.
On that account, perhaps the outcome of Saturday’s face-off had little relevance to the series overall; however, the events that transpired saw immense pressure put on both squads and did little to provide Hong Kong or Malaysia a psychological relaxation ahead of Sunday.
Hong Kong’s aggressive attack with the ball manifested itself early in the encounter, as right-hand bat Zubaidi Zulkifle scooped right-arm medium-pace Haroon Arshad comfortably into the hands of Babar Hayat who took an effortless catch at long-off.
As a steady next two overs engendered some hope of building an impactful partnership during the powerplay, right-arm off-break bowler Ehsan Khan’s fourth over put a nip in the bud of this potential, as he dismissed right-hand bat Virandeep Singh with an attack of the stumps to push the ball straight through Singh.
Singh was Player of the Match in Malaysia’s first contest this series - his ousting stressed the Malaysians.
The frazzle of the Malaysian team resulted in an Arshad direct hit, accredited to a mixup by the Malaysian men who ran themselves out. Left-hand bat Muhammad Amir's wicket put all sorts of strife on the Southeast Asian country after he put on an impressive 80 (52) performance against Bahrain two days prior.
A marvelous display of captaincy was demonstrated as Hong Kong’s Nizakat Khan assessed and subsequently repositioned his fielders to accommodate Faiz Ahmed’s play, moving Mohammad Ghazanfar out to the boundaries right before Ahmed’s pull shot sent his ball straight into Ghazanfar’s hands.
Wickets continued falling, and nothing seemed to work for the Malaysian squad. By the 13th over, Malaysia was down five and amassed their first boundary, only the third of the innings thus far, after eight consecutive overs of silence.
Malaysia’s top six were back in the pavilion with only 63 runs on the board.
Only a couple more overs were required to see the dismissal of the entire Malaysian team, as Ehsan Khan continued his spectacular stint as a full toss truck right back at the bowler as he stunningly stuck the ball in his palm and said goodbye to debutante Syazrul Ezat.
A. Khan’s final wicket secured Malaysia their second-lowest T20I score in history.
With 96 runs to win, Hong Kong saw itself in good hands. A total that required less than five runs an over, fear wasn’t a participant of Hong Kong’s 11.
Well, at least until Malaysia’s breakthrough found the hosts in deep trouble at 18/3 at the start of the fourth over.
It took a mere three balls for Hong Kong’s captain to fall off the marks, followed by a quick, back-to-back dismissal of right-hand bat Babar Hayat and left-hand bat Kinchit Shah, courtesy of slow left-arm bowler Fitri Sham.
As Sham floated it up outside the off stump, Hayat, the mainstay of Hong Kong’s batting line-up, sprayed it off his bat to be caught easily at short cover. Shah’s leg-before golden duck put the batsman in visible frustration as he strutted off the pitch.
After what we thought would ensue as a boring second innings in favor of Hong Kong, we now had a game on our hands.
Hong Kong only managed eight more runs before the next man fell. The dreaded finger of umpire John Prakash arose on a full toss to left-hand bat Yasim Murtaza, sending him back to the pavilion.
Tension was clearly on the rise for Hong Kong as an A. Khan - Adit Gorawara mixup in the pitch resulted in the latter being run out by his teammate, forcing the youngster out early.
A steady partnership was in the works as right-hand bat Shahid Wasif took the pitch for Hong Kong alongside A. Khan - the two ensured a wicket-less eight overs and 34 runs added to Hong Kong’s total. Just 31 were required off the final four overs, and a stable partnership in Hong Kong’s hands kept their hopes alive.
As soon as things were looking better for Hong Kong, left-arm medium-fast bowler Muhammad Wafiq mangled the partnership upon an impressive catch by Malaysia’s Amir Azim behind deep square leg, securing the ball before it fell to earth. Hong Kong took just one run off the over, requiring 30 off the last three.
After losing six wickets, Player of the Match A. Khan took matters into his own hands.
In a stellar display of death-batting, A. Khan finished the contest in 2.1 more overs amidst back-to-back-to-back A. Khan boundaries to put Hong Kong at ease heading into the ultimate over. They needed two runs off six deliveries.
Arshad skied a square cut for four at the start of the twentieth over, and Hong Kong had overcome a tight chase to emerge victorious.
“We didn’t start very well; we lost quite a few wickets early on and made it hard for ourselves. The wicket wasn’t easy to bat on - the ball wasn’t coming on the bat nicely, but the plan was to stay there till the end and take it as deep as we can,” A. Khan said. “Credit goes to Shahid (Wasif) and Haroon (Arshad) for the way they batted as well, and we built this small little partnership which mattered in the end.”
The final day of the T20I Quadrangular Series is set for Sunday at Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground as Kuwait and Bahrain battle it out for third place at 9:30 a.m. HKT, followed by the final between Hong Kong and Malaysia at 1:40 p.m. HKT to determine who will take home the trophy.