Hong Kong U19 avenged their earlier defeat by Afghanistan U19 in the group stages of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2010 by a posting a stunning 4 wicket victory in a Plate Championship Play-off match at McLean Park, Napier.
Overnight rain caused a delayed start to the match but play finally got underway at 2PM with the match reduced to 32 overs per side. Afghanistan U19 won the toss and rather surprisingly, opted to bat first. Aizaz Khan opened the bowling for Hong Kong U19 and he grabbed a wicket in the first over as Jawid Ahmadi edged a catch to Hong Kong U19 skipper James Atkinson, who was once again doing duties behind the stumps. A 63-run partnership between Afghanistan U19 skipper Nool ul-Haq Malikzai and MS Ayan Aminzai followed before Aminzai spooned a simple catch to Waqas Barkat at mid-off from the bowling of Ashish Gadhia. Gadhia then took a good return catch to dismiss the dangerous Hashmatullah Shahidi for just 1. Malikzai was looking good at the other end and although boundaries were hard to come by, he was pushing the ball into the gaps to keep the scoreboard moving along at a good clip. Khushal Rasooli provided good support and the pair combined for a 46 run partnership. The partnership was finally broken when Aizaz Khan, returning for his second spell, had Malikzai caught by Waqas Barkat for a well struck 61 from 88 balls. Nizakat Khan finally dismissed Rasooli for 30 to another catch at the wicket by Atkinson. Some late hitting by Aftab Alam (17*) and Zakiullah Zaki (10*) lifted Afghanistan U19 to 151-5 at the end of their 32 overs.
For Hong Kong U19, Ashish Gadhai grabbed 2-18 from six overs while Aizaz Khan picked up 2-30 from seven overs. Nizakat Khan (1-15) was the other wicket taker for Hong Kong U19. Irfan Ahmed (0-27 from seven overs) bowled well and he was unlucky not to pick up a wicket as he beat the bat on numerous occasions.
Hong Kong U19's reply got off to a disastrous start as an opening burst from Aftab Alam and Izatullah Khan had them reeling at 16-4 after 7 overs chasing a target of 152 for victory. Ashish Gadhia (0), James Atkinson (0) and Mark Chapman (3) were all dismissed in a fiery opening spell by Aftab Alam, who claimed 3-7 from his first 4 overs, with only 2 of those runs coming off the bat. Irfan Ahmed and Nizakat Khan counter-attacked briefly as they combined for a 33-run partnership in 23 balls but Nizakat was caught by Hashmatullah Shahidi in Ayoub Khan's first over. Irfan was batting more confidently by this stage as he mixed good running between the wickets with the occasional shot to the boundary. He needed a reliable partner and he found that in his good mate Waqas Barkat. Batting in difficult conditions, with heavy clouds overhead and with the light fading, the pair combined for an exciting and ultimately match-winning partnership worth 95 runs scored off 106 balls. Irfan brought up his half-century in 65 balls but with only 8 runs needed for victory, he edged a catch to the wicket-keeper to give Aftab Ahmad his fourth wicket of the innings. Irfan batted brilliantly under pressure to score 68 from 81 balls, including five fours and one six. Waqas was not to be denied his half-century and he brought it up in style with a crashing boundary through the cover region - his 50 coming off just 51 balls. Waqas scored the winning runs with another hit to the boundary and Hong Kong U19 had won an astonishing match by four wickets with 11 balls to spare. Waqas finished unbeaten on 57* from 54 balls, including four boundaries.
For Afghanistan U19, Aftab Alam picked up 4-31 in a hostile spell of bowling but he was blighted by 9 wides. Izatullah Khan and Ayoub Khan were the other wicket-takers for Afghanistan U19.
Irfan Ahmed was later named Man of the Match for his brilliant innings.
Hong Kong U19's victory was their first in an ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup match and it sets them up for a match against Zimbabwe U19 at McLean Park on 17th January 2010 to determine 13th/14th places in the 16-team tournament.
Hong Kong U19: James Atkinson (captain and wkt), Irfan Ahmed, Ashish Gadhia, Harmeet Singh, Nizakat Khan, Mark Chapman, Waqas Barkat, Alex Smith, Aizaz Khan, Asif Khan, Aditya Kanthan, Shakeel Haq (12th man)
Afghanistan U19: Nool rul-Haq Malikzai (Captain), Jawid Ahmadi, MS Ayan Aminzai, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Khusha Rasooli, Afsar Khan Zazai (wkt), Zakiullah Zaki, Ayoub Khan, Mohammad Anwar Anwari, Aftab Alam, Izatullah Khan, Murad Ali (12th man)