Hong Kong 169 for 5 (Nizakat 62, Hayat 49) beat Ireland 129 (Thompson 44, O'Brien 32, Aizaz 3-10) by 40 runs
Hong Kong kickstarted their two-match T20 international series against Ireland with a 40-run win, made possible by Nizakat Khan's half-century and followed up by a collective effort from their medium pace attack.
It's Hong Kong's second straight win in T20Is over Ireland, following up their dramatic five-run win defending 129 at Malahide in last summer's World T20 Qualifier. Despite picking five debutants in a bid to rejuvenate their T20 lineup after a winless campaign at the 2016 World T20 in India, Ireland's woes in the format continued again on Monday. Ireland has now gone five T20Is without a win, their last victory coming against UAE on February 14.
Nizakat's prior career-best in 19 T20Is entering Monday's contest was 29 but given the opportunity to open the batting for the first time he responded in style with 62 off 43 balls. Six of his seven fours were struck through the off side while his two sixes were lofted over extra cover and long-on. He brought up his fifty in 35 balls when he took two runs from a dropped chance on 49 at long-on by Greg Thompson off of debutant legspinner Jacob Mulder, then punished the error by driving Mulder's next ball for six back down the ground.
Knocks of 49 off 31 balls from captain Babar Hayat and an unbeaten 29 from Ehsan Khan took Hong Kong to 169 for 5 after they elected to bat at Bready Cricket Club. Aizaz Khan, who opened the batting alongside Nizakat, then led the charge with the ball as his 3 for 10 in three overs helped bowl Ireland out for 129.
Nizakat dominated an opening stand of 41 in 4.4 overs with Aizaz, the latter contributing just 5. He went on to add 56 more for the second wicket with Hayat before he was fooled by Mulder. Having committed to a premeditated shuffle away from leg stump, Nizakat continued with his shot to a ball pitched wide outside off by Mulder and produced a simple catch to cover. Babar made sure the tempo of the innings was maintained though, his 31-ball knock containing two fours and as many sixes, until his dismissal in the 17th over. Ehsan then ensured a strong finish to the innings with his 22-ball unbeaten knock that contained two fours and a six.
Ireland's bowlers shared the wickets equally with four different bowlers - Mulder, Andy McBrine, Craig Young and Kevin O'Brien - claiming one apiece while the fifth came courtesy of a runout in the field by Thompson. Mulder and McBrine were economical but Young and O'Brien were expensive, leaking 56 and 39 runs off their respective quotas. Four of Hong Kong's five sixes in the innings came off of Young's bowling.
Ireland stuttered early in the chase and were reduced to 24 for 4 before the recovery started through a fifth-wicket stand of 59 between O'Brien (32) and Thompson, who top-scored with 44 on debut coming in at No. 6. They were the only two batsmen to make it past 15 in the Ireland innings, which was wrapped up in 19.3 overs.
Aizaz found support from Hong Kong's new-ball pair of Tanwir Afzal and Nadeem Ahmed. Former Hong Kong captain Afzal clean bowled Dave Rankin and Sean Terry in his opening spell while left-arm spinner Nadeem had Ireland captain William Porterfield caught at mid-off in the second over before coming back in a later spell to claim McBrine stumped for 10. Medium pacer Tanveer Ahmed also took two wickets while Ehsan's offspin accounted for O'Brien.
The second and final match in the series takes place on Tuesday at the same venue.