Malik and Younis blow away Hong Kong

Pakistan 343 for 5 (Younis 144, Malik 118) beat Hong Kong 165 (Malik 4-19) by 173 runs (D-L method)

Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik scored well-paced centuries, shared a 223-run partnership, and took Pakistan to 343 for 5, a score that ended the match as a contest at the half-way stage. Once this huge score was on the board, Hong Kong came under immense pressure and folded for 169, as Pakistan romped home by 173 runs. Persistent rain interruptions reduced the target to 339 from 47 overs, but this didn't make the slightest bit of difference to the eventual result. This sobering loss ended Hong Kong's brief association with one-day international cricket for the moment, as they were knocked out of the Asia Cup.

Hong Kong's best chance - and that was a minute one - lay in restricting Pakistan to less than 250. Their bowlers kept them in the match against Bangladesh, restricting them to 221, and a similar effort was needed to keep Pakistan quiet. And Khalid Khan, the left-arm seamer, snapped up both the openers and gave them a glimmer of hope. But all thoughts of restriction were squashed when Younis joined Malik and displayed a whippet-like urgency between the wickets and improvised with ease. Then came the torrent in the last 10 overs and the total went way beyond Hong Kong's reach.

Malik has been a handy customer while coming in lower down in the order and smashing it around towards the end, but hadn't replicated the same success at No. 3. Yesterday he fell to a needless run-out, but he made sure he didn't miss out today. He began with a flurry of boundaries, shifted to a lower gear for a short while in the middle overs before launching into an assault towards the end. Loose balls, which were readily available, weren't spared and the run-rate was constantly hovering around the five-and-a-half per over mark.

Younis, who has been in and out of the Pakistan side, also missed out yesterday and hadn't scored a fifty for nearly a year. His cheeky glides and paddle-sweeps put the bowlers completely off their rhythm and the running between the wickets, along with Malik, kept them within sight of a 300-plus total. Younis, who made nearly 70 runs behind the wicket, swept consummately in the arc between fine-leg and midwicket. Around the 40-over mark, both batsmen shifted to clatter mode and kickstarted the barrage of fours and sixes.

Malik, whose hundred came at a run-a-ball, finally fell for 118 as he was caught short of his crease by a direct hit (274 for 3). This was Malik's third century in one-dayers and included ten fours and two towering sixes. Younis brought up his maiden one-day hundred a shade faster, off 99 balls, and went on a rampage soon after. Abdul Razzaq, an ideal batsman to have in such a situation, joined in the fun and helped propel the total past 300. Younis's last 44 runs came in only 23 balls, before holing out to Nadeem at midwicket and the last 10 overs produced 105 runs.

Chasing 344 is monumental in itself, but having to do so under murky skies with Mohammad Sami and Razzaq producing some unplayable balls makes it almost impossible. Hong Kong crawled along for most of the innings barring a cameo from Tabarak Dar in the middle. After Nasir Hameed was out to the third ball, Tim Smart and Alexander French shared a painful partnership, with French hardly looking for any scoring opportunities. Both were beaten on several occasions and Smart was finally out to Razzaq with Younis completing a sharp chance at second slip (45 for 2).

Dar's six boundaries, four of which were crisply struck, added a coating of vim to the lethargic afternoon. He went after anything short that Naved-ul-Hasan dished out and even dug out a yorker and sent it speeding to the long-off fence. Malik's fuller one finally did him in as he was bowled trying to sweep from outside the off (95 for 3). French fell in the very next ball, playing on to Farhat, and that triggered a mini-procession. Farhat struck two more quick blows and Sami came back and pocketed the wicket of Ilyas Gul (102 for 7).

Razzaq put in an improved performance after a lacklustre show yesterday but the extras bug haunted all the bowlers - they sent down 18 wides and seven no-balls. Manoj Cheruparambil and Afzaal Haider delayed the inevitable in fading light, before Malik wrapped up the tail and completed a great day at the office. Similar days, though, will be vital when the second round of matches begins on Wednesday.