Hong Kong beat table-toppers Papua New Guinea by 93 runs at the Hong King Cricket Club to qualify for Friday's final in the ICC World Cricket League Division Three, where they will play PNG again. Hong Kong's win also mean they are guaranteed promotion to WCL Div. 2.
PNG, who chose to field, had Hong Kong in trouble early on as Rarva Dikana and Hitolo Areni picked up three wickets to reduce Hong Kong to 39 for 3 in the 11th over. However, Hussain Butt, who top-scored with 68 was involved in two crucial 40-plus stands with Irfan Ahmed (25) and Nizakat Khan (36) to take Hong Kong past 100. Areni struck to dismiss Nizakat and Waqas Barkat in quick succession but Butt and captain Najeeb Amar put on 53 runs in just under 10 overs to get the Hong Kong innings back on track. Butt was dismissed with the score on 196 but Nadeem Ahmed hit some big shots to take Hong King to 221 before they were bowled out.
Hong Kong's bowlers then defended the total, bowling PNG out cheaply. Tony Ura and Kila Pala were the only two batsmen who managed to get past 20, as PNG failed to string together any substantial partnerships and kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Nadeem picked up three wickets as PNG were bowled out for 128 in just under 48 overs.
"We talked about how we could beat PNG today and knew if we batted first it would be important to make as many runs as possible before our bowlers could get to work on the PNG side," said Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke.
"The important thing for us was to remain focussed and we knew by putting PNG under pressure the side would become vulnerable which they did today. We beat them in a warm-up game without our full strength squad so we knew we had the ability today to beat them, and our ability and strength showed today.
"There are plenty of quality sides in Division 2 but my focus since taking this role has been about securing promotion. We have the promotion but this league isn't over and we want to win the entire tournament in front of our home crowd before we focus our attention to the new challenges and teams Division 2 will throw at us," said Burke.
"We're obviously disappointed with our play and commitment in the loss to Hong Kong today," added PNG captain Dikana. "Today was Hong Kong's final as they battled for survival in the tournament and they were the better side on the day. Congratulations to a well prepared side that fought hard and showed strong spirit.
"We have a rematch to see who will take home the title of Division Three champions and I know my team have the ability to take the trophy home to PNG as the best side in the tournament. Our complete focus is on tomorrow as we take one step at a time. Tomorrow is a new ball game."
Two aggressive half-centuries from Hemin Desai and Vaibhav Wategaonkar carried Oman to a commanding four-wicket win over Denmark at the Kowloon Cricket Club, but it was not enough to allow Oman to qualify for the final.
Denmark were sent in to bat and got off to a shaky start, losing their openers with just 38 runs on the board. Carsten Pedersen and Rizwan Mahmood steadied the innings with a 66-run partnership but once Mahmood was dismissed with the score on 104, Denmark suffered a collapse. Rajesh Kumar and Khalid Rashid picked up three wickets apiece as Denmark slumped from 104 for 3 to 181 all out in just under 48 overs.
Oman needed to knock the runs off quickly if they were to keep their hopes of qualifying for the final alive. Desai and Zeeshan Siddiqui got them off to a rapid start, adding 34 runs in 2 overs before Siddiqui was dismissed. Desai and Wategaonkar then blasted 41 runs in 17 balls. Desai fell for 51 off just 17 balls with five fours and five sixes. Wategaonkar added another rapid 22 with Adnan Ilyas before Bashir Shah had Ilyas stumped. Oman seemed to lose momentum after his dismissal. Though they reached their target in just under 25 overs with Wategaonkar unbeaten on 54, Hong Kong went ahead of their run-rate by beating PNG to destroy Oman's hopes of qualifying for the final.
USA's hopes of qualifying for WCL Div. 2 were ended by Italy, who beat them by four wickets at the Mission Road Ground. Italy will now go on to play Oman in the third-place playoff while USA will play for fifth place against Denmark.
Italy got off to a shaky start in their chase of 223, slumping to 52 for 4, but a 102-run partnership between Peter Petricola and wicketkeeper Hayden Patrizi got them back into the game. After Patrizi was out for 50, Michael Raso came in and smashed 38 off 29 deliveries, and Italy got home with 18 balls to spare. Petricola was unbeaten on 69.
Petricola had also been Italy's most successful bowler, taking four wickets as Italy restricted USA to 222 for 8. USA captain Steve Massiah scored 52 and opener Sushil Nadkarni scored 47, but USA didn't get to a big enough total.
"Along with the entire team, I am hugely disappointed to be relegated back to Division Four," said Massiah. "We didn't prepare for this tournament as well as we have done in other events and our performances here were nothing like what we know we are capable of when we play cricket.
"Certain things didn't go our way this tournament and we now need to go back to the USA and rethink our strategy and how we are going to bounce back from this and rebuild our team to climb back up the leagues."