Rain leaves it all in the balance
A day of rain in Buenos Aires meant that two of the final round-robin matches will have to be replayed on Saturday, keeping the World Cup dreams of Afghanistan and Uganda still alive. Both teams were in precarious positions when rain came to their aid. In the only game that was completed, Papua New Guinea thrashed Hong Kong to move to top the table with eight points, but they will have to await the results of Saturday's games - if both Afghanistan and Uganda win, net run-rate will determine which teams make it through to the ICC World Cup Qualifier.
A disastrous batting performance from Hong Kong against Papua New Guinea ended their hopes of advancing. Five of their top six failed to get past 10, and it was a 25 from No. 8 Ilyas Gull that helped them to 91. The only other batsmen to reach double digits were Zain Abbas (18) and Irfan Ahmed (10), with extras contributing 13. Loa Nou took 3 for 12 off 7.3 overs for PNG, with Rarva Dikana and John Ovia snapping two each in similar economical spells. PNG raced to the target in 12.3 overs, giving a healthy boost to their net run-rate, which had dropped after their heavy loss to Afghanistan. The openers put on 82 in no time. Vani Morea hit two sixes in his 31-ball 42, while Chris Amini made an unbeaten on 38 off 44 balls.
"Today was a completely different performance to Wednesday. I thought we needed to stand up collectively and show a bit of character and the boys responded really well," Martin Gleeson, PNG's coach, said. "There were no individual stars with the bowling - it was just a really good all-round performance.
"Our batting focus was on knocking off the runs as quickly as possible, hitting the ball and not slogging it. I think we showed that we can score six or seven runs an over with the bat. We will just have to see how the other matches end up."
Defeat looked imminent for Afghanistan against Cayman Islands when rain, which had caused a five-hour interruption, returned to save them. Things went wrong for Afghanistan, one of the pre-tournament favourites, from the start, with openers Shafiqullah and Karim Khan falling cheaply. They were reduced to 47 for 5 when Raees Ahmadzai and Mohammad Nabi were dismissed in the space of four balls by Saheed Mohamed. Captain Nowroz Mangal's unbeaten 26 helped them recover to 68 for 5 in 31 overs before rain halted play. When play resumed, Duckworth/Lewis came into play, and Cayman Islands needed only 63 off 20 overs. Dawlat Ahmadzai removed the openers, but Keneil Irving put the chase on track with three fours in a Hameed Hassan over. At 35 for 2 off seven overs, Cayman Islands were in sight of an upset win when a late downpour forced to umpires to call off the game. Afghanistan played a bit smartly as well, delaying matters in the field in order to let the elements bail them out. A win on Saturday will ensure their place in the top two, since they already have a better net run-rate than PNG.
"I nearly had another heart attack. I think I need to say thank you to God as he has been very kind to us today. We needed it to rain and it did," Kabir Khan, Afghanistan's coach, said. "We have to play better tomorrow as PNG has already won its game and Uganda has a very good chance of winning their game as well, so we need to win and with a good run rate as well."
Cayman Islands coach Theo Cuffy was disappointed but knew there was nothing they could do about the rain. "I thought we looked very comfortable today, but we will have to see what happens tomorrow. I am confident, but tomorrow is just another day. We will try our best. I thought our bowlers really stuck to their plans today and it is just unfortunate about the weather."
Uganda, too, were wobbling in their game against Argentina, and were at 69 for 4 in 31 overs when rain intervened. Lucas Paterlini struck twice for the hosts, but the inclement weather upset their hopes - at least on the day - of finishing a disappointing campaign on a winning note.
With the two replays taking place on Saturday, the play-off matches for the standings have been cancelled.
|Papua New Guinea||5||4||1||0||0||8||+0.665||597/183.2||546/210.4|