A brilliant 81 from 16-year old Mark Chapman was not enough for Hong Kong to overcome UAE at the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in Dubai today. Hong Kong had fought back valiantly from a precarious 5-52 but their challenge ultimately fell 20 runs short.
Earlier in the day, UAE had won the toss and elected to bat. Hong Kong grabbed the early wicket of the dangerous Arshad Ali for 0 but his fellow opener Arshad Ali went hard at Hong Kong's new ball bowling attack, smashing 69 from 78 balls including 12 boundaries.
The introduction of spin into the attack slow the run-rate markedly and with that came the regular fall of wickets. Hong Kong skipper Najeeb picked up 4-33 from his ten overs while Mark Chapman claimed the prize wicket of Khurram Khan for 0. Saqib Ali stood firm for the hosts and he scored a 68 from 113 balls with seven fours. A late flourish saw UAE reach 227-9 from their 50 overs. Irfan Ahmed was the second most successful Hong Kong bowler with two wickets, but his came at a cost of 7.8 runs per over. Hong Kong wicket-keeper Waqas Barkat had a great day behind the stumps, claiming five catches.
Hong Kong's reply got off to a horror start with Courtney Kruger trapped LBW for 1 off the first ball of the second over. Worse was to follow as Roy Lamsam (16), Hussain Butt (13), Nizakat Khan (0) and Waqaas Barkat (0) fell in quick succession to leave Hong Kong teetering on 5-52 after 17 overs. Irfan Ahmed joined Mark Chapman at the crease and the pair batted brilliantly in a 96-run partnership that lifted Hong Kong to 148 before Irfan was harshly adjudged LBW to a leg side delivery for a well struck 36 from 47 balls. Irfan's dismissal was the fourth LBW decision of the Hong Kong innings while none went against UAE.
Meanwhile Mark Chapman was batting superbly and he looked destined for well-deserved century when he was badly run-out by his new partner Najeeb Amar. Chapman's 89-ball innings included seven fours and two sixes. When Najeeb was bowled shortly afterwards, Hong Kong's valiant run-chase was all but extinguished. A late flourish from Nadeem Ahmed and Aizaz Khan took Hong Kong close to a famous victory but in the end Hong Kong fell twenty runs short of their target.
For UAE, left-arm spinner Shadeep Silva grabbed 4-17 in a Man of the Match winning performance. Arshad Ali also grabbed two wickets while Amjad Javed, Mohammad Taqir and Saqib Ali were the other wicket takers for UAE.
Hong Kong can look back with mixed emotions on a brave yet ultimately futile performance. The loss sees them slip back to fourth place in the points table and they now face a must-win match against PNG at the DSC Stadium tomorrow to stay in contention for a top four finish in the competition.