Afghanistan and Ireland keep hoping
After two big losses, Afghanistan put their names in the right column on the points table with an eight-wicket win over Hong Kong in Christchurch. Noor-ul-Haq's decision to field was vindicated by his bowlers, in particular five-wicket hero Zakiullah Zaki, and a target of 138 was knocked off with ease thanks to Javed Ahmadi's unbeaten 90. With their third straight loss, Hong Kong have been knocked out of the tournament.
Afghanistan's new-ball bowlers, Aftab Alam and Yamin Ahmadzai, set the stage for Zaki's success. They each struck to jolt Hong Kong early, and when Zaki a slow left-arm spinner, struck for the first time in the 22nd over, Hong Kong were 87 for 4. Noor-ul-Haq turned his arm over and began by sending back the top scorer Ashish Gadhia for 46, after which Zaki mesmerised the middle order. From 117 for 5, Hong Kong crashed to 137 in 35.1 overs, with Zaki netting 5 for 34.
Hong Kong had used seven bowlers by the time Gadhia was called on to bowl some slow left-arm spin of his own, and he was the surprise element. He immediately snapped an opening stand of 86 by trapping Ayan Aminzai lbw for 21 off 69 balls, and in his next over did in Noor-ul-Haq the same way. But that was as good as it got for Hong Kong, with Ahmadi defying them with an a brisk 98-ball effort, studded with nine fours and three sixes. Hashmatullah Shaidi chipped in with a 12-ball as Afghanistan knocked off the runs in 31 overs.
USA became the second team to crash out of the tournament, with a superb century from Paul Stirling leading Ireland to victory in Queenstown. Fifties to Steven Taylor and Saqib Saleem had put USA on track for a more substantial total than their eventual 217, but a collapse triggered by a return spell from new-ball bowler Craig Young and Lee Nelson's part-time offspin had them folding in 48.1 overs.
Young's dismissal of Andy Mohammad had not deterred USA, who through Taylor (57) and Greg Sewdial (30) were making good progress. Even though Ireland dismissed the pair within the space of two runs, Saleem and Ryan Corns continued to fight on and at 168 for 3 in the 37th over USA were still well placed. But Nelson ran out Corns for 31, Young returned to strike twice in successive overs, and Nelson, in a three-wicket burst, dashed USA's hopes. The last six wickets fell for 49 runs, with Nelson - son of Alan and nephew of Noel, both of whom played for Ireland - enjoying himself with the ball.
Stirling, after Ireland lost two wickets, carried the chase superbly. He lost four partners along the way but his presence meant USA were always struggling to defend a small total. The experience of six ODIs for the senior side came in mighty handy, and when Stirling was eventually dismissed for a 102-ball 114, Ireland needed just nine to win. Ireland's games have all been completed, and their first win has kept their hopes of progressing further flickering.
New Zealand eased to their second win by seven wickets over Zimbabwe in Lincoln. Their bowlers, despite conceding 28 extras, did well to dismiss Zimbabwe for 135 in 42.2 overs and a century opening stand deflated the opposition further as the hosts cantered home.
Each of the three first bowlers used picked up a couple wickets to keep Zimbabwe on the mat, but apart from the offspinner Tim Johnston everyone who turned their arms over bowled wides. The 28 extras were the joint highest contribution to Zimbabwe's total alongside the 28 scored by Tinotenda Mutombodzi, who again had to try and bail them out of a hole. He put on 29 for the seventh wicket with Natsai Mushangwe (25). Johnston picked up good figures of 3 for 27, which completely did for Zimbabwe's middle order.
A 116-run start between Harry Boam and Tom Lathan continued New Zealand's domination of Zimbabwe. The pair chipped away at the target with ease, playing an array of shots either side of the track, with Latham especially good driving through the covers and down the ground. Calum Price picked up two wickets to momentarily put the chase down a notch, but Latham's unbeaten 57 sealed the deal in the 26th over.
West Indies won their second in a row and knocked out Papua New Guinea with a five-wicket win in Palmerston North. Having opted to field, West Indies did well to set themselves a target of 188 and chased that down with two sizeable hands proving key.
Yannic Cariah, who was Man of the Match in West Indies' thrilling last-over win against Bangladesh two days again, was again among the wickets. His introduction snapped a 51-run opening stand and his legbreaks continued to flummox PNG, who lost four of their first five wickets to Cariah. Sese Bau's 50 and 30 from Jason Kila staved off West Indies' charge somewhat, but PNG's total was not enough. Even Raymond Haoda's three wickets did not stall West Indies who, through a brisk 118-run stand for the fifth wicket between the opener Kraigg Brathwaite and the wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, won in the 36th over. Braithwaite's second fifty of the tournament was a stroke-filled 82 from 78 balls, and Dowrich's unbeaten 85-ball 84 proved equally as vital to a successful chase.