Hong Kong v Netherlands, WCL Championship, Mong Kok February 16, 2017

A loss that may have cost Hong Kong millions

At a level of cricket where survival is not guaranteed, the game between Hong Kong and Netherlands had more riding on it than most international matches - and both teams played that way

Anshy Rath struck his maiden List A ton but Hong Kong failed to cross the line against Netherlands in a close finish in Mong Kok © Panda Man

At one point, it didn't matter that each Kookaburra international ball costs around HKD1000 (USD130 approx). When Anshy Rath put one into a tree of a private residential block that Hong Kong Cricket has no access to, it meant they had to eat the cost of that ball. But that six was good news for Hong Kong, because it came in the over after losing their captain, Babar Hayat, to a brilliant leg-side stumping by Wes Barresi, and it meant that they needed only 66 from 49 with seven wickets in hand.

Things like the cost of balls matter at this level, as Associate games aren't like the top flight of international cricket. This game was played on a ground that neither side has access to train on tomorrow, as Hong Kong Cricket only get so many hours a week they are allowed to use this oval for. The square has turf wickets along with a synthetic wicket. The ground is no different to any suburban cricket ground anywhere in the world. And when these national sides play on it, they aren't playing some meaningless rubber, as with almost every game of cricket an Associate team plays - this means everything to them.

You don't play for pride at this level; you play for funding, and survival.

On the ICC WCL table, the Netherlands were one point clear of Hong Kong, making them tied first with Papua New Guinea. But that essentially means they are 13th in the world. That number is important, as the 13th best ODI side (according to what the Associates believe) under the new ICC proposal is due to make millions more than the 14th ranked side. Not to mention that not being 13th in the world might mean that Hong Kong lose their ODI rating, and the Netherlands will remain without theirs.

So this match on this borrowed ground, in a city that almost entirely ignores cricket, which started at 9 am with no spectators, has more riding on it than almost all the international ODIs played. And both teams played like that.

The Dutch top order rode their luck a bit, but Ben Cooper played some quality drives, and Stephan Myburgh went on to 88. Then their experienced middle order of Roelof van der Merwe, Peter Borren and Pieter Seelaar pushed the score well over 300. Had van der Merwe not holed out with more than six overs to go, he might have shattered the windows of the apartment block next door. Instead, the score was something that Hong Kong could chase, if everything went right.

Paul van Meekeren hastened Hong Kong's defeat with two wickets in the 48th over © Panda Man

For the longest time, in the longest partnership of the match, it did. Rath and Hayat took the score from 53 for 2 to 250 for 3. Hayat by muscling the ball, and occasionally just destroying it, while Rath did it by smart batting. Even when Hayat went out and later when Rath went out, Hong Kong had the match, the money and the ranking in their grip.

But as they so often do, they panicked. Rath was caught for 134 trying to hit the Netherlands quality young left-arm wrist spinner, Michael Rippon, out of the ground. But even his wicket shouldn't have been the difference. The over before, Nizakat Khan had hit Paul van Meekeren, one of the best bowlers in Associate cricket, back over his head for a six, losing another ball. All Nizakat had to do was stick around for the next five overs or so and the game would be iced. Instead the ball after Rath's wicket, he gifted Rippon his fourth scalp.

Within a few moments 285 for 3 became 285 for 5, and the Dutch team suddenly found full voice as they put pressure on Hong Kong with solid defensive bowling and attacking verbal warnings. Despite Hong Kong cruising, there had always been a sense - to the Dutch - that they believed a collapse was coming, that if they kept pushing, they would get it. But even though they saw it coming, when it did, it came every more dramatically that they had been expecting. Wickets came with Hong Kong at 308, 311 313 and then 315. It was a collapse of 4 for 7 - and 6 for 30 overall. Against Kenya, in the last game of this league they lost, they had lost six wickets for 29 runs.

In the end it was their tail, who bumbled their way to a last over needing ten. They knocked back singles, cramped themselves up, seemed confused at what boundaries to target, and ended up only taking four runs from the over, despite it being an eight-ball affair as two of them were wides.

There was not one Hong Kong player who left the field thinking that they shouldn't have won it, and not one Dutch player thinking that they hadn't done it the tough way. But the Netherlands are now leading the World Cricket League, and with their decent quicks, good-quality spin, classy batting order and only one loss in nine games, they would back themselves to go on and win the whole thing.

Hong Kong had to use three replacement balls in their innings, but worse than that, this is a loss that might have cost them millions.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajk_Npl on February 18, 2017, 9:38 GMT

    Well, that's a game, I have a couple of points to make here.

    In Div 2 first match where Nepal play to Uganda and lost by 2 runs which eventually cost Nepal (almost WCLC later gifted by ICC) and ICUP --> Could you calculate how much it will cost Nepal?

    Nepal lost to Scot in WCLC by 3 runs and two close loose to PNG (because they drop easy chances on 48th/49th overs), Nepal would have been standing above HK but this is how it is?? Should we calculate this also? if so, How much it will be?

    What I want to say is, this is why we called it GAME.. and I think it should be like this. Thanks

  • Alfers on February 17, 2017, 22:55 GMT

    The telling point is that the match took place in 'a city that almost entirely ignores cricket'. Top down initiatives and funding from the ICC won't change that. The impetus can only come from local coaches and administrators. The claim that this match really means anything in the grand scheme of things is strange. The references to world rankings when the gulf between 14th and the top eight is so vast are disingenuous.

  • Patrick_Clarke on February 17, 2017, 19:47 GMT

    An excellent report on this match. A bit more coverage of matches at this level and a bit more funding for them, then let these sides get a chance to develop. No one's saying they are anywhere near ready for test status, and even in 10 years time that will probably be the case, but in the fullness of time, if they get proper long-term encouragement, who knows?

  • Akseli on February 17, 2017, 7:57 GMT

    Against Kenya they lost 6 wickets for 31 runs. Well played the Netherlands. 1st they managed a well-earned first class draw. Now they beat Hong Kong in a List A match. One match left. Come on guys. Let's make a tour you can remember for some months.

  • Victoriancricketer on February 17, 2017, 0:04 GMT

    A good observation that there were very few people at the game and for the live stream at most 500 watching at a time - earlier in the game, about 200 watching. It was good to see dozens of schoolchildren watching and playing at the innings break. Apparently, there will be more at the game on Saturday. However, the teams cannot compete with the top full member nations. If they play the top teams, the games will not be competitive - too many misfields. Teams cannot be rushed to test-status if they are not competitive.

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