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Match Report - Hong Kong vs Malaysia - APC Group Hong Kong T20I Series Final - 12th March 2023

13 March 2023

Hong Kong prevails over Malaysia to be crowned champions of the APC Group T20I Quadrangular Series

BY IRA GORAWARA

HONG KONG - After Hong Kong’s five-year void of international cricket, the home side managed to come away with the triumph in the finals of the APC Group T20I Series.

A toss in favor of the Malaysian men sent left-hand bat Anshuman Rath and right-hand bat captain Nizakat Khan into the pitch to initiate a competitive total for the Hong Kong batsman.

Rath and N. Khan didn’t take long to get set on the field and build Hong Kong’s bedrock. On an aggressive batting display, Rath closed out the fourth over with a back-to-back pair of boundaries.

Hong Kong concluded left-arm medium-fast bowler Muhammad Wafiq’s fifth over with a beautifully-timed boundary by Rath. All five Hong Kong boundaries in the innings so far emerged from the blade of Rath. After being sidelined by a side strain in Saturday’s game, Rath recovered well and immediately returned to Hong Kong’s 11.

An effective 79-run partnership between Rath and N. Khan was halted right before the drinks break, as a leg-before ended the skipper’s run.

After Hong Kong’s first loss extinguished a steady nine overs of cricket, things were downhill for Hong Kong as both right-hand batsman Babar Hayat and Rath were dismissed in the following three overs. Malaysia was back in the contest as their opponents quickly lost three wickets.

Right-hand bat Aizaz Khan, two-time Player of the Match in the series, took the pitch only to walk right back to the dugout after facing just three deliveries.

With this, Malaysia gained control of Hong Kong’s innings for about 30 minutes taking four wickets and conceding under 30 runs. Hong Kong’s left-hand batsman Kinchit Shah flipped the script with a 21-run 17th over, including 16 in the first three balls. Left-hand batsman Yasim Murtaza capped off the impressive over with another boundary to add to his squad’s 142 runs.

Another 59-run solid partnership was broken for Hong Kong, as left-arm medium pace bowler Rizwan Haider found the breakthrough for Malaysia and directed Shah back to Hong Kong dug out.

Hong Kong’s final over saw three losses in Murtaza, Haroon Arshad, and Zeeshan Ali. Regardless, the squad posted 182 runs, marking their highest total of the series and thirdhighest in their T20 International appearances.

Malaysia was challenged with a competitive total, requiring over nine runs per over to emerge victorious. Seven boundaries in the first 12 deliveries put the Southeast Asian country at 32 for no loss after the end of the second over.

Hong Kong’s bowling backbone right-arm off-spin Ehsan Khan appeared flustered in his opening over, an un-Ehsan-like showing. After an expensive over, E. Khan only conceded three more runs in his spell and added two wickets to those figures.

Once A. Khan was introduced to the pitch, he quickly got the job done for his skipper - although this may not have been a legal ousting for right-hand bat Virandeep Singh. It seems Hayat stepped past the ropes before throwing the ball into the field for a second snatch. What should’ve been a maximum was instead Malaysia’s first wicket and an instigator in Malaysia’s irritation.

Annoyance on the faces of the Malaysian men led to the disintegration of the batsman as they lost five more wickets in the next six overs. Malaysia’s key batsmen were back in the dugout with 111 to win in 12 overs.

A couple more loud appeals converted into wickets for Hong Kong before Muniandy and right-hand batsman captain Ahmed Faiz constructed a steady partnership.

Right-arm seamer Nasrulla Rana, who did well to take two wickets in his spell, terminated this partnership as the finger of Tabarak Dar rose to dismiss left-hand batsman Firti Sham.

A. Khan’s magic with the ball was on display again, as he also managed to dismiss four Malaysian men, squashing his opponents’ expectation of a successful run chase.

Hope was curtailed for Malaysia as their eighth and ninth wickets fell consecutively. One batsman remained for Malaysia as they required a hefty 67 runs off just 28 deliveries.

And then, Hong Kong’s Ehsan Khan took it away.

The off-spin bowler did the damage, clean-bowling Wafiq to crown his squad champions of the APC Group T20I Series, defeating Malaysia by a margin of 39 runs.

A crucial 45 runs off just 17 deliveries was the difference for Hong Kong, courtesy of Player of the Final Yasim Murtaza. With three boundaries and four sixes, Murtaza struck at 264.70 to change the game trajectory for Hong Kong.

With 105 runs, eight wickets, and two Player of the Match accolades under his belt, Aizaz Khan accepted the Player of the Tournament award. Aizaz’s impact on both ends of the field throughout the four games was vital to Hong Kong’s success.

“I was just playing my natural game. I backed myself to stay on the wicket and score some runs, and I’m glad I did,” A. Khan said. “We’ve been working hard the past couple of months, working on our skills, and we executed our plans and had a good tournament.”

Malaysia took home the runners-up trophy, followed by Kuwait, who defeated Bahrain by six wickets in the consolation game.

Next up for the hosts is a 50-over Triangular Series with Kuwait and Malaysia, set to kick off on Wednesday, March 15, with the finals set in stone for the following Sunday.

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