Mark Chapman's bold surge in the final five overs propelled Hong Kong to a dramatic five-wicket win over Afghanistan in Malahide to book their second straight trip to the ICC World Twenty20. It's Hong Kong's first ever T20 win over Afghanistan in their seventh try and means Afghanistan now must beat Papua New Guinea in an elimination match on Thursday to make it to the 2016 World Twenty20.
A meandering Hong Kong chase of Afghanistan's 161 for 7 sprang to life with the arrival of Chapman, who demonstrated the urgency that was sorely needed earlier with 40 off 25 balls. The 21-year-old vice-captain frequently shuffled around the crease for paddles and scoops to throw the Afghanistan bowlers off their lengths.
Hong Kong scored 12 runs in the 16th, 17th and 18th overs, with Chapman doing the majority of the damage courtesy four boundaries and a crisp six over long-off in that stretch. He ramped another four past fine leg in the 19th and a single off the last ball of that over kept him on strike with Hong Kong needing 16 off the final over.
Mohammad Nabi was given the ball and struck for the first time in the match, following Chapman to the leg side by darting one in flat and full, and a leaping catch was taken by Nawroz Mangal at deep midwicket. Nabi lost his length on the next two balls though, floating two full tosses to Babar Hayat that were pulled through square leg and over midwicket for four and six. A wide followed, leaving five off three needed for a win. A three was followed by a run out of Tanwir Afzal and with two needed off the final ball, Hayat drilled the ball through covers to spark celebrations for Hong Kong and dismay for Afghanistan.
Hong Kong had made a reasonable start to the chase at 37 for 1 in the Powerplay with the only loss coming when Irfan Ahmed was done in by a slower ball from Mirwais Ashraf and jabbed a catch to Asghar Stanikzai at mid-on for 16. Jamie Atkinson and Nizakat Khan added 51 in tandem for the second wicket but the stand was stodgy with both men struggling to get the ball away. After a 10-run 11th over to take the score to 74 for 1, Hong Kong only added 14 more runs in the next three overs as the required rate surged to more than 12 an over.
Nizakat was also dropped twice, on 15 and 26 off Sharafuddin Ashraf with the second chance put down by the spinner himself. Nizakat finally fell in the 13th having hit a solitary six in his 26 off 28 balls, caught slashing Shapoor Zadran to third man. Atkinson went for a run-a-ball 47 in the 15th to make it 98 for 3, driving Shapoor flat to Shafiqullah Shafiq at long-off. Chapman took over from there to bring Hong Kong near victory before Babar fetched the winning runs.
Afghanistan had won the toss and elected to bat first as Mohammad Shahzad dominated an opening stand with Nawroz Mangal, smacking a series of fours over the leg side. He fell on the first ball of the fourth as Haseeb Amjad followed him, backing away from the stumps and a cramped tennis-style swipe sailed to third man where Aizaz Khan took the catch for 20.
Nawroz and the captain Stanikzai added 58 for the second wicket in eight overs. Nawroz reserved his most severe punishment for Aizaz, hitting the medium pacer's first two deliveries through point and fine leg to the rope, and scored 19 runs off the 10 balls he played against him. Stanikzai finally fell to Aizaz at the start of the 12th, inside edging a slog onto the stumps with the keeper Atkinson standing up.
After Nawroz lofted left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed for six to bring up his fifty off 34 balls, Nadeem darted in a flatter ball to induce a simple catch at long-off by Kinchit Shah. Two overs later, Kinchit hustled for a spectacular effort to give Nadeem's brother Irfan a wicket, circling around 30 yards from deep square leg to a skier from Najibullah Zadran before diving to claim the chance at deep midwicket making it 122 for 4 with 21 balls to go in the innings.
Samiullah Shenwari (21), Nabi (13) and Shafiqullah (15) all delivered brief but handy bursts to give Afghanistan 34 runs off the final three overs. Haseeb came back late to snare the wickets of Shenwari and Nabi, both brilliantly caught by Chapman at long-on, to finish with 3 for 28 and Shafiqullah's run out hesitating for a single ended the 20th.
The run out was a clumsy and mindless effort in which neither Mirwais nor Shafiqullah wanted to run despite it being the final ball of the innings. Haseeb actually misfielded in his follow through, kicking the ball twice before gathering to underhand into the stumps at the striker's end. Their refusal to go for the run may have cost Afghanistan a chance at a super over in the end.