Hong Kong caused one of the major upsets in ACC tournament history by beating Nepal by 36 runs in the final group stage match of Group A in the ACC U-19 Elite Cup tournament. "It was the first defeat in ACC U-19 cricket for five years," said their coach Roy Dias, "and the boys have only themselves to blame." Themselves, maybe, Hong Kong's Irfan Ahmed definitely. He hit an unbeaten century, reaching his hundred with a 6 off the last ball of his innings and took three wickets with his hostile pace-bowling after that.

Nepal: down but not out

It was a tremendously mature performance from Irfan, to whom Match Referee Diwakar Vasu of India later said, "You're good enough for the IPL." Hong Kong had to win this match to be sure of pipping Malaysia for a semi-final place and they set their stall out to play a steady game against the steadiest team in Asia. "190 was our target and though we were a perhaps a little too slow in getting there, get there we did," said Hong Kong's coach Aftab Habib.

Irfan, going in at 4, played an uncharacteristically dour innings. In his last match he was bowled going for the biggest of big hits in a pressure situation, today he saved his big hits for the most optimal time. His first 50 came in 75 balls (3 fours), his next 50 came off 28 as he hit the ball just where he wanted. He reached his century in the best way possible. He had gone in as a teenager, he walked off as a man.

Irfan connects

Nepal have made a habit of grinding out victories over the years, they've had class players with big hearts and sound heads. "Head is not there with this lot," said their coach afterwards. It just needed a couple of them to play in the way that Wasim Barqat and Irfan Ahmed had. No one did.

Waqas Barqat

Nepal's captain Gyanendra Malla - a veteran of so many successful campaigns - was the danger man and once he fell, mistiming a pull, Hong Kong not only had a semi-final in their sight, they could sense a victory. Shakeel Haq bowled his slow left arm beautfully from the Car Park End picking up 4-17 and Irfan's pace was just too much for the batsmen after Malla to play with any comfort. Irfan's was the most eye-catching performance but every member of the Hong Kong team made a contribution.

Irfan Ahmed

From a rare victory against Malaysia the match before, to a momentous victory over Nepal, Hong Kong now have a great deal of momentum and self-belief. And they've avoided Afghanistan in the semis by finishing top of their group.  They play Qatar at Hubara on Wednesday, when Afghanistan take on Nepal at the adjoining Kuwait Oil Company  Ground Unity.

2009 ACC U-19 Elite Cup
Hong Kong v Nepal
at Unity
Hong Kong won the toss and chose to bat
Hong Kong: 193 for 7 off 50 overs (I.Ahmed 103*, W.Barqat 36; L.Adhikari 3-33)
Nepal: 157 off 47.4 overs (S.Haq 4-17, I.Ahmed 3-27)
Man of the Match: Irfan Ahmed (Hong Kong)


ACC U-19 Elite Cup 2009

Pictures courtesy Tahir Khan

Filed April 27, 2009