The day got off to a positive start for Hong Kong with Tabarak Dar winning the toss and inserting the opposition on a very green looking wicket. The weather was again hot and afternoon thunderstorms were forecast.
The Afghanistan openers got their innings away to a flier as Karim Khan and Shafiqullah Shafaq flayed away against the new ball. Irfan Ahmed and Roy Lamsam beat the bat on numerous occasions but the Afghani batsmen were able to hit balls to the boundary at least once per over through a mixture of good shots and good fortune. The pair put together a partnership worth 72 runs by the end of the 13th over before the introduction of spin saw both batsmen fall within the space four 4 balls. Nadeem Ahmed had Shafiqullah caught for 24 from the fourth ball of his first over while Najeeb Amar bowled Karim for 36 from the first ball of his second over. The double breakthrough slowed the Afghani's momentum and when Nadeem bowled Asghar Stanikzai shortly afterwards, Hong Kong was back in the game. But another solid partnership between Afghanistan's skipper Nooroz Mangal and Mohammad Nabi took Afghanistan's total to 130-3 at the 30 over mark and a very total was looking on the cards.
The reintroduction of pace saw the momentum swing back in Hong Kong's favour as Irfan sneered the wicket of Mangal (35 from 68 balls) while Lamsam picked up the wickets of Nabi (40 from 44 balls), Dawlat Ahmadzai and Rais Ahmadzai to leave the total at 167-7 after 41.3 overs. With the Hong Kong bowlers now operating in single over spells, the big hitting Afghanistan tail-enders were unable to settle into any rhythm and only Samiullah Shenwari (25 from 39 balls) was getting any purchase from his shots. Irfan grabbed two late wickets as Afghanistan was eventually dismissed for 201 from the fifth ball of the 50th over.
Roy Lamsam was the best of the Kong Kong bowlers claiming 3-33 from his ten over spell while Irfan Ahmed's three wickets came at a cost of 62 runs (including 7 wides and 1 no-ball). Miserly bowling from Nadeem Ahmed (2-23 from 8 overs) and Najeeb Amar (2-35 from 10 overs) helped stem the early flow of runs and bring Hong Kong back into the match.
Hong Kong opened their second innings as they had done their first - with Irfan Ahmed and Roy Lamsam. The experiment failed to work as Irfan was bowled by Dawlat Ahmadzai in the 3rd over with the total on 6. Lamsam and Zain Abbas blunted the new-ball attack for another seven overs before Lamsam fell with his score on 14 and the total on 27. Survival now seemed to be the main intent of the Hong Kong batsmen as the total crawled to 47 by the 19th over at which juncture Zain was caught behind for 13 from 54 balls from the bowling of Hamid Hassan. Hussain Butt was next to go when he was caught for 16 from 44 balls. The total was now 60-4 with half the overs gone. A flurry of runs from Tabarak Dar (19 from 28 balls) lifted the run-rate slightly but Hong Kong continued to lose wickets in the process with Najeeb Amar (1), Skhawat Ali (7) and James Atkinson (3) failing to bother the scorers too much. When Atkinson fell LBW from the first ball of the 33rd over, Hong Kong looked dead and buried at 90-8.
But there was a twist in the Hong Kong tail and some enterprising batting from Moner Ahmed and Ilyas Gull helped turn around Hong Kong's fortunes, despite an ever-increasing run-rate. While Gull stood firm at one end, Moner Ahmed blazed away in unorthodox fashion as he smashed 49 runs from 39 balls, including 2 fours and 4 sixes. His untimely exit in the 45th over still left Hong Kong with a sniff of victory and when Nadeem Ahmed started finding the boundary rope with regularity, an unlikely victory seemed on the cards. But it was not to be as Nadeem was caught out from the second ball of the 49th over for a well struck 27 off just 18 balls, including five boundaries. Gull remained undefeated on 11 from 44 balls as Hong Kong finished on 188, still 14 runs short of their target.
For Afghanistan, Hasti Gul, Mirwais Naziri and Mohammad Nabi grabbed two wickets apiece. Hong Kong's nemesis, Mohammad Nabi, was later named Man of the Match for his all-round performance with bat and ball.
With Uganda and Papua New Guinea scoring their second victories of the tournament (over Cayman Islands and Argentina respectively), Hong Kong will need to return to winning ways in their next outing against Cayman Islands on Tuesday if they wish to remain in contention for a finals berth. They will be seeking to avenge the result of their last outing against the Caribbean outfit who skittled Hong Kong for their lowest ever international score (69) when the two teams last meet at the last ICC WCL Division 3 tournament in Darwin in 2007.