ICC World Cricket League Division 3, Darwin June 2, 2007

Hong Kong defeat Tanzania by 129 runs to claim 5th spot at the ICC WCL Division 3

The Hong Kong players give Rahul Sharma a guard of honour after he scored 85 in his last innings against Tanzania © HKCA
Hong Kong travelled to the satellite township of Palmerston (20kms out of Darwin), and on to Power Park where they had been humiliated by Cayman Islands in a group match, to play Tanzania in the plate final of the ICC World Cricket League Division Three at Darwin, Australia.

Hong Kong and Tanzania were coming off wins against Italy and Fiji respectively, and Tanzania probably held the psychological advantage having beaten Hong Kong in the group stages of the tournament.

Conditions were again brilliant with warm and fine weather and temperatures rising to 32°C. However it didn't fell as warm as it did previously, with a strong breeze blowing across the ground and lower humidity.

Hong Kong's day got off to a good start at the coin toss when skipper Ilyas Gull called correctly and decided to bat. With memories of their disastrous batting effort against the Cayman Islands still fresh in their minds, it was a bold decision, although the players looked confident that they could reverse their earlier fortunes. Changes in the squad saw Nadeem Ahmed returning to the starting eleven in place of Skhawat Ali, who was named 12th man, while Mark Eames and Khalid Khan sat out the match.

The opening pairing of Mark Kratzmann and Courtney Kruger were retained and the two got off to a good start when Kratzmann crashed the first ball of the match to the mid-wicket boundary off the bowling of Benson Mwita. Kruger hit his first four in the next over and by the end of the 7th over, the score sat at a useful 39-0. At this stage the scoring rate stalled and Hong Kong only managed a further 4 runs off the next six overs. Kratzmann was dropped in the slips but Kruger was the first to fall, when on 32, he edged left-arm speedster Hamisi Abdallah to the keeper. Rahul Sharma, playing in his last match for Hong Kong after announcing his international retirement, then joined Kratzmann at the crease. The two built on Hong Kong's good start, scoring another 39 runs before Kratzmann was caught in the gully for 28. Irfan Ahmed, now settled in the number four batting spot, joined Sharma at the crease and the pair continued Hong Kong's momentum. Irfan was given a life when a Tanzanian fielder made a complete hash of a skied ball. He went on to hit an excellent 47 from 57 balls, including 5 fours and 1 six, before he became Abdallah's second victim. The partnership between Sharma and Irfan had realised 106 runs - easily the best for Hong Kong at this tournament.

Sharma, meanwhile was batting in his old familiar style - cautious to start with but then opening up and crashing the ball to the boundary with both orthodox and unorthodox shots. He was fortuitous to survive a run-out chance when a direct hit appeared to find him short of his ground but umpire Hameed did not raise the dreaded finger. He also survived at least two dropped catches and he made the Tanzanians pay for their tardiness in the field. Sharma hit a brilliant 85 from 111 balls, including 8 fours and 2 sixes. After he was finally dismissed, caught in the deep off the bowling of Damji, the Hong Kong players paid their respects by forming an honour guard with their bats at the gates leading off the ground. A fitting tribute to a player who had given so much to Hong Kong cricket over the past 14 years (see 'Rahul Sharma retires from international cricket').

Hassain Butt fell to the very next ball for 14 and Najeeb Amar smashed 13 from 6 balls before falling to the last ball of the innings. Hong Kong had reached an excellent 242-6 after being 95-1 after 30 overs and 170-2 after 42 overs. For Tanzania, Hamisi Abdallah and Hasnan Damji claimed two wickets each.

Afzaal Haider opened the bowling for Hong Kong and he was unlucky not to claim a wicket in his first over when Nadeem Ahmed dropped a sharp chance off Abhik Patwa in the gully. But Hong Kong didn't have to wait too long for their first wicket as Irfan Ahmed got Rishen Patel to edge to wicket-keeper Nasir Hameed in the second over. Irfan then got a delivery to rise into the stomach of Patwa and the opener had to leave the field for treatment.

Nasir Hameed stumps Tanzania's Abhik Patwa © HKCA
Haider claimed his first wicket when Zain Abbas grabbed a catch off Shaheed Dhanani and had his second when he trapped skipper Hamisi Abdallah LBW for 0. In between, Irfan had claimed his second wicket when Abbas caught Athumani Kakonzi. Three wickets had fallen with the score on 33 and Tanzania was in serious trouble. Matters got worse when Khalil Rehmtullah was trapped LBW - Irfan's third wicket of the day - the score now 37-5.

Next to fall was Benson Mwita, LBW to Najeeb Amar. Zain Abbas then got into the act when he trapped Bhavesh Govind LBW - the fourth dismissal in that manner of the innings. Nadeem Ahmed bowled Hasnan Damji from his first ball and the Tanzanian batting line-up was in tatters at 78 for 8. Patwa returned to continue his innings and he and Kassim Nassoro combined in an entertaining partnership of 26 runs that lifted the Tanzanian total past 100. At 104, Patwa became Nadeem's second victim when he was stumped by Hameed. Nassoro was caught behind off Nadeem and Tanzania were all out for 113. Hong Kong had won by 129 runs, thereby winning the plate competition and finishing 5th in the ICC World Cup Division Three tournament, having been seeded 4th.

[Full Scorecard: Hong Kong v. Tanzania - 5th/6th Play-off]

Hong Kong had finished the tournament with victories in their last two matches. Better performances in their earlier group matches may have seen them into the cup competition, but their final finishing position was a fair reflection of how they played in the tournament compared to the other teams in Darwin.

Second seeds Uganda won the tournament, beating 8th seeded Argentina in the final. Top seeds Papua New Guinea (PNG) came third after defeating Cayman Islands. Italy finished 7th in the tournament after beating Fiji in their final match.

Finishing Order (Seeding)

1. Uganda (2)
2. Argentina (8)
3. PNG (1)
4. Cayman Islands (5)
5. Hong Kong (4)
6. Tanzania (7)
7. Italy (6)
8. Fiji (3)