HONG KONG GET BREACHED

Man of the Match Nepal’s Mehboob Alam bowls another batsman over

Hong Kong almost pulled off the save of the year, in going down to Nepal in the latest ACC Premier League Match. Hong Kong were dismissed late on the third day, after having three wickets in hand with twelve overs to go.

Match report courtesy of Hong Kong Cricket Association

Day 1:

Hong Kong slumped to 7-74 at stumps on the first day in the 3-day ACC Premier League match against Nepal at the TU Cricket Ground in Kathmandu.

For the second match in a row, Hong Kong chose to field after stand-in captain Ravi Sujanani won the toss. Nepal made a cautious start as openers Paresh Lohani and Mahesh Chhetri combined for a partnership of 37. But at that score, both batsmen were dismissed as Najeeb Amar and Nadeem Ahmed grabbed a wicket each. But Hong Kong had to wait a while for the next wicket as Mehboob Alam (61) and Sarad Vesawkar (79) then put together a partnership of 89 runs that was broken when Nadeem picked up his second wicket. Nadeem and Najeeb bowled in tandem for a total of 47 overs, claiming seven wickets in the process. Apart from Alam and Vesawkar, none of the Nepali batsmen got on top of the Hong Kong attack, although a number of useful partnerships pushed their total over 200. Nadeem grabbed five wickets for 67 runs from his 23 overs while Najeeb finished with figures of 2-35 from 24 overs. Nepal eventually declared their innings closed at 217 for eight.

Nepal's gamble not to bat on paid immediate dividends as Hong Kong's revamped batting line-up slumped to 28 for 4. Hong Kong's cause was not helped by the run-outs of Mark Eames (20) and Adam Gunthorpe (2) while the express pace of Binod Das accounted for Imran Idrees (5) and Roy Lamsam (0). Things went from bad to worse for Hong Kong as they slipped to 6-46 and then 7-60, with only Ravi Sujanani (15) registering a double-digit score. At stumps, Hong Kong were teetering at 74 for seven, having avoided the embarrassment of following-on, with Najeeb Amar and Afzaal Haider at the crease. Ilyas Gul is still to bat having injured his hand making an unsuccessful attempt to make a catch off his own bowling.

Hong Kong have avoided the embarrassment of following-on but they still face an up-hill battle to save the game and they'll be looking towards their bowlers to turn their fortunes around on day two.

Day 2:

A brave rearguard batting effort on the second day was not enough to turn around Hong Kong's fortunes in their ACC Premier League match against Nepal at the TU Ground in Kathmandu.

Najeeb Amar lead the tail-end batting effort with a robust 37 and he received good support from Afzaal Haider (23) and Ilyas Gul (13*) who bravely batted with an injured hand. Hong Kong's final total of 136 was better than they could have expected after they had slipped to 46 for 6 mid-way through the final session of the first day's play. For Nepal, Binod Das claimed the last wicket to fall and he finished with figures of 3-30 from 15.2 overs.

The slow, low pitch continued to make batting difficult and Nepal's batsmen struggled to assert their authority in the second innings. After a burst of pace from Afzaal Haider and Irfan Ahmed, the ball was thrown to Hong Kong's spin duo of Najeeb Amar and Nadeem Ahmed. The two bowlers once again provided the bulk of the overs, but this time they didn't have the services of the injured Ilyas Gul to back them up.

First innings bowling hero, Nadeem made the first breakthrough when he trapped Lohani LBW with the score on 25. A promising second wicket partnership was snuffed out with the score on 59 when Irfan Ahmed claimed the wicket of Mehboob Alam who struck a brisk 29 from 27 balls. Hong Kong claimed three further wickets in relatively quick succession and with Nepal's score at 81-5, Hong Kong could sniff an opportunity to get back into the game.

But, as happened in the previous match against Singapore, Hong Kong was unable to finish off the opposition and an unbeaten 69 from Paras Khadka, with good support from Binod Das who scored an unbeaten 20, lifted Nepal to a seemingly impregnable 188 for 6 at the close, an overall lead of 269 with four wickets in hand.

Nadeem Ahmed was again the most successful Hong Kong bowler, claiming three wickets for 75 runs from a busy 27 overs while Najeeb Amar grabbed two wickets in a tight spell that conceeded just 34 runs from 28 overs with 11 maidens. Irfan Ahmed was the other successful bowler - his solitary wicket cost 24 runs from 12 overs.

Hong Kong scored an unlikely victory from a similar position in 2004 but it will take an extraordinary effort by the 2006 team if they are to repeat that feat.

Day 3:

Hong Kong slumped to a 165-run defeat to Nepal in the ACC Premier League match played in Kathmandu.

Set an improbable target of 305 for victory, Hong Kong were never in the hunt as simple survival became the order of the day. But Hong Kong's ultra defensive efforts were not quite enough to stave off defeat as they were dismissed in the second innings for 139 from 79.3 overs. The final wicket fell with eleven overs left in the day's play.

Facing 90 overs of batting, Hong Kong needed a solid start from it's top order. But that failed to materialise as Imran Idrees was dismissed early, bowled for the second time in the match by Binod Das with his score on 5. Mark Eames (20) and Adam Gunthorpe (21) both made starts but their untimely dismissals kept Hong Kong on the back foot. Worse was to follow as Ravi Sujanani was run out for 8 and then Najeeb Amar fell for 4 to leave Hong Kong reeling at 64-5. Ilyas Gul joined Irfan Ahmed and the two combined in a 29-run partnership that steadied the innings somewhat. While Gul only scored 12, his innings occupied a valuable 85 balls. Irfan Ahmed continued to bat on and he found another able partner in Roy Lamsam (13 from 63 balls) and the two added another 44 runs together.

With only twelve overs left in the day's play, Hong Kong looked like they could salvage a face saving draw, but when the seventh wicket partnership was broken, the end came in a rush. Whereas the tail had mounted a stern resistance in the first innings, the final four wickets tumbled in the space of 9 balls in the second. Irfan was the stand out performer with the bat for Hong Kong - his 42 runs from 133 balls was double the score of the next highest batsman.

Earlier in the day, Nepal had elected to continue on from their overnight score of 188-6. Overnight batsmen Paras Khadka and Binod Das advanced their individual scores to 87 and 30 respectively and the Nepal total to 233-8 before the declaration finally came.

Both Nepali wickets fell to Nadeem Ahmed, who provided one of the few highlights for Hong Kong as he claimed ten wickets in the match, easily the best by any bowler from either side. Despite Nadeem's match analysis of 46.2-13-160-10, the Man of the Match honour was awarded to Nepal's Mehboob Alam.

Nepal's victory earned them 32 points in the ACC Premier League while Hong Kong scored 13. Hong Kong will face Malaysia in its next ACC Premier League match which will be played in Singapore on 3-5 November 2006.

Scorecard

Filed October 16 2006