A disappointing batting effort by Hong Kong has seen them easily beaten by Afghanistan in the semi-final of the ACC Twenty20 Cup 2013 in Nepal.
Batting first after being inserted by Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi, Hong Kong got off to a positive start with 11 runs coming off the first over bowled by speedster Shapoor Zadran, courtesy of a boundary to Irfan Ahmed and and four overthrows from a leg-bye. But Irfan (6) was deceived in the second over bowled by spinner Hamza Hotak and was stumped by wicket-keeper Karim Sadiq.
Jamie Atkinson and Waqas Barkat weren't give the same amount of latitude to play their shots as in earlier matches but they still managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over at 8 runs per over until the fifth over, thanks in part to Waqas whacking four boundaries off Gulbadin Naib's only over, the 4th of the match. But disaster struck in the 6th over as both Atkinson (15) and Barkat (17) were dismissed attempting aggressive shots from the bowling of Hotak. Atkinson was bowled while attempting to crash the ball over cover and Barkat skied an attempted sweep which was easily taken by the keeper. Nizakat Khan and Courtney Kruger attempted to revive the innings but in the 8th over, Nizakat failed to respond to a call for a quick single and Kruger (2) was easily run out at the bowlers end. From 1-43 after 5 overs, Hong Kong was now struggling at 4-48 from 7.2 overs with the cream of the batting back in the pavilion.
Nizakat and Anshuman Rath advanced the total on to 61 but on that score Nizakat (14) was bowled by Samiullah Shenwari as he tried to repeat a slog for six that he'd hit the previous ball. Anshuman (11) was next to fall as he failed to deal with a short ball from Aftab Alam that defelcted from his thigh on to his stumps. Things went from bad to worse for Hong Kong as Tanwir Afzal holded out in the deep for no score to leave Hong Kong on 7-79 midway through the 14th over and at risk of failing to bat out their 20 overs. Babar Hayat, who had been watching the clatter of wickets at the other end, combined with Aizaz Khan in a partnership worth 26 runs before Babar (14) became the second run out victim of the innings. Aizaz (15) hit a return catch to Shenwari and when Karan Shah (1) was run out going for a second run, the Hong Kong innings ended with their score on 109 at the end of the 19th over. Nadeen Ahmed (2*) was the not out batsman for Hong Kong.
For Afghanistan, the slow left-arm orthodox bowling of Hamza Hotak proved lethal - his four overs conceeding just 14 runs while picking up 3 wickets and affecting two run-outs.
Hong Kong needed early wickets to put the pressure back on the Afghanistan batsmen but they failed to make an early breakthrough. The big occasion did not deter the Afghanistan batters from playing their shots and both openers, Karim Sadiq and Fazal Niazai, dealt severely with anything too short, too full and/or too wide. Irfan Ahmed's first over went for 14 and he was soon replaced in the attack by his older brother Nadeem. The change nearly brought about a much needed breakthrough but a difficult chance to cover was not grasped and the ball sped away for another boundary. The first wicket came in the next over as Karan Shah forced Niazai (23) on to the back foot but the ball burst through his defences to peg back the leg stump.
Another half-chance fell Hong Kong's way in the next over as Sadiq charged out of his crease to Nizakat Khan but Jamie Atkinson was unable to collect the wide spinning ball and it flew to the boundary adding 5 runs to the score. But Sadiq (14) fell in the next over, expertly caught down the leg side by Atkinson as he attempted to sweep Shah. The score was now 2-50 after seven overs.
Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nasim moved the score onto 81 when Nasim (15) was trapped LBW by Nadeem Ahmed. Hong Kong was still in with a chance but they needed to get the new man, Mohammad Nabi, early. Unfortunately the Hong Kong bowlers lost their composure and a number of easy runs were leaked at crucial times. Irfan bowled successive no-balls, gifting Nabi two free-hits but Nabi was unable to take full toll, hitting the second of the two free-hits to mid-off for a comfortable catch but the wicket did not count.
In the next over Aizaz Khan came into the attack but started poorly with two wides. A six in the same over saw Afghanistan pass the 100 mark and from then on it was easy going for the defending champions. The end came quickly as a boundary was picked off Nizakat's next over and a four off the first ball of the next over saw Afghanistan ease to victory seven wickets with 17 balls to spare. Zadran finished unbeaten on 37 while Nabi was 10 not out.
For Hong Kong, 16 year-old Karan Shah was the pick of the bowlers, claiming 2-18 from his four overs while Nadeem Ahmed was the only other wicket taker. The Man of the Match honour went to Afghanistan's Hamza Hotak.
Score Summary: Hong Kong 109 from 19 overs (Hamza Hotak 3-14) lost to Afghanistan 3-112 from 17.1 overs (Najibullah Zadran 37*) by 7 wkts [Scorecard]
It was a difficult end for Hong Kong after having performed so well in the group stages of the tournament. Hong Kong will have to pick themselves up to play UAE in the 3rd/4th Play-off match tomorrow after the previously unbeaten UAE were knocked over by hosts Nepal by 6 wickets, much to the delight of the parochial home crowd.