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Match Report - Malaysia vs Hong Kong - APC Group Hong Kong One Day Series - 18th March 2023

Double-century opening partnership guides Hong Kong to victory


HONG KONG - After a four-year hiatus in the Nizakat Khan-Anshuman Rath opening act, the duo returned to 50-over cricket with a 238-run partnership.

An indestructible start to Hong Kong’s innings developed into an unprovoked 40.3 overs. There was no stopping the home side’s openers in their respective 100+ totals.

The last time the two took the pitch together in the 50-over format, they posted a 174-run partnership to lead their squad to a near-defeat of India. Today, the pair somehow managed to put to shame this figure and surpass their record by nearly 70 runs.

A slow onset to the innings barely set a nerve in the openers. Tallying just 34 runs in the powerplay, including a mere nine runs in the latter half, N. Khan and Rath appeared calm, composed, and confident in the crease, steadying the innings early.

Quietly and gradually trickling up Hong Kong’s run rate, by the 20th over, the hosts struck at around five runs an over, putting them in position to anticipate a competitive total of 300 plus.

Also at the 20th over, a bounce for four off of left-arm off-spin Fitri Sham brought up Rath’s efficient 50 off 51 balls. A short delivery gave the former captain enough time to create a flawless sound off his bat and dispatch the ball to the ropes.

With an average of over 50 runs in associate cricket and nearly 50 in the list A format, few batsmen come close to battling Rath in the figures he has displayed since his International debut on November 8, 2014, against Papua New Guinea.

Barely any time elapsed before the other half of the duo logged a 50 of his own. Taking a single off of right-arm off-spin Khizar Durrani, Captain Khan grounded his way up to his 50, which saw an unhurried, steady three fours and two maximums.

Over-pitched, Rath timed his delivery to perfection and punched it down the ground to bring up his century. His flawless timing of the ball was the epitome of his innings. It took thirty more runs to remove the Player of the Match from the pitch after he was caught on the boundaries.

Rath’s innings were characterized by a low dot-ball percentage and his ability to convert dot balls to singles. He was a steady builder, not going aerial much in his batting.

“I like to rotate strike,” Rath said. “The lower dot balls you have, the more the scoreboard keeps ticking - it’s low-pressure cricket, and I have always been a firm believer of that and have adapted it into my game over the last few years.”

Upon the captain’s century, he looked to heaven and joined in a warm embrace with Rath as he delivered a true captain's knock. N. Khan was the quieter of the two in the partnership, but what rounded up to be a 111 (129) innings won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

With 264 runs posted on the board by the time of the captain’s dismissal, it was up to the rest of Hong Kong’s batting lineup to close out a stellar opening performance. Behind right-hand batsman Babar Hayat and Adit Gorawara’s double-digit performances, the home side managed an aggressive total of 318, igniting fear in the Malaysian dugout.

Ultimately, an opening double-century from the hosts blew the game out of the water as early as the start of Malaysia’s innings. With three wickets down in their powerplay, Malaysia had little hope of returning from the trenches and finding victory in this game.

Right-arm fast bowler Ayush Shukla took the hosts’ first wicket. A wicket-maiden over for Shukla included an early dismissal of left-hand batsman Syed Aziz, losing some of Malaysia’s muscle. Allowing just 26 runs in his seven-over spell, Shukla compensated for his 14-run opening over and collected two crucial wickets for his squad.

Hong Kong’s right-arm off-spin bowler Ehsan Khan was pivotal in giving away less than 2.5 runs an over and marking three wickets for his team. He took the catch of right-hand bat Mohammad Faiz to assist in Hong Kong’s 22-run breakthrough that saw 77 consecutive runs.

Low spirits in the Malaysian dugout flipped once 19-year-old Vijay Unni put up a century of his own, his career-high with the bat. Once he reached his 100, he tried to go big and got bowled by E. Khan.

It was all smiles amongst the Hong Kong men, as almost all got an opportunity with the ball, including Hayat, who marvelously secured the wicket of Wan Azam.

N. Khan and Rath’s double-century partnership propelled Hong Kong to victory, guaranteeing Hong Kong a berth in tomorrow’s final against the familiar faces of Kuwait. The match is set to commence at 9:30 a.m. local time at Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground.