Irfan Ahmed: The roar of the dragon

A fired-up Hong Kong raced to a thumping six wicket victory over Malaysia to give themselves a chance to win a semi-final place in the ACC U-19 Elite Cup. To do that they will need to beat Nepal in their last match.

Hong Kong came into this match knowing that nothing less than a win would do. They played well below their potential in losing to Saudi Arabia and weren’t totally convincing in beating Singapore whereas Malaysia have looked an improved side at this level in winning two out of three matches.

Hong Kong’s greater desire to prove themselves prevailed.

Aizaz Khan and Niaz Ali found just a little bit of movement with the new ball to trouble the Malaysian top order and Aizaz’s dismissals of Shafiq Sharif and Keithan Goonasageran in the second and fourth over put paid to any hopes Malaysia might have of putting up a big total. The wicket was obviously a little slow and low and Hong Kong had done nothing from the start to suggest that there would even be one loose ball.

Aizaz Khan strikes: Fikri Makram departs

After Aizaz Khan made the incision with three early wickets, Irfan Ahmed ripped the guts out of the Malaysian innings. He was on fire today, at close to top pace and notwithstanding the softish surface hitting the deck hard. Irfan found gaps between bat and pad of the Malaysian batsmen as big as the Johor-Singapore causeway as some of them involuntarily – or voluntarily – backed away as he came roaring in at them.

Umpire Buddhi Pradhan had to rearrange the furniture five times

Only Malaysia’s captain Faris Almas made any headway against Irfan. He was on 18 when one Irfan snorter, not only took the top of the bat as it climbed off a length, it was too fast for the keeper Waqas Barkat standing twenty yards back. It was quite possibly the fastest delivery of the tournament so far.

Irfan finished with 6-22 as Malaysia were bundled out for 83.

Malaysia have their own pace in Derek Duraisingham and he bowled an excellent burst  from the Camp End, he had Hong Kong’s captain Atkinson dropped at first slip but Atkinson was again late on a drive two balls later and was taken behind. Malaysia are usually a pretty good fielding side, “you have to be, if you don’t score many runs,” said one wag in the scorer’s box. But they dropped a few catches today. Had they taken them, the pressure that Hong Kong were under, the game could have been really close.

Atkinson’s fall brought in Irfan Ahmed who absolutely feeds on pace and Duraisingham was replaced by Shahrulnizam Yusof whose first ball, a low full toss was struck by Irfan low down to to mid-on’s left who spilled the catch. The next ball, Irfan being Irfan, was smacked through midwicket and the ball after that into the trees.

On a slow, low wicket, with just a hint of turn Malaysia’s spinners found some purchase and little Abdul Rashid bowled beautifully. He tosses the ball up high, has it drop on a driving length and has a doosra.  He also has one that turns quite a bit as Irfan found when he went to hit the ball into a set of trees not even at the ground.

Abdul Ahad snares Nizajat Khan off his own bowling

Aizaz Khan was bowled by Rashid next ball and at 38-3 Hong Kong were just in a little bit of trouble. Shakeel Haq who had been in from the start was dropped soon after – a big miss and though Rashid took one more wicket, that of Nizakat Khan caught and bowled, the reward for a dental drill’s worth of deliveries in the 19th over, it was just a little too late.

Shakeel breaks the shackles

Waqas Barkat was a good man for Hong Kong to have in this situation – a cool head and good footwork and he reads spin well - and with the gutsy Shakeel Haq they got Hong Kong home.

“We had a job to do and we did it, a semi-final place is still on for Hong Kong,” said their coach Aftab Habib. They just have to beat Nepal tomorrow to make sure it happens. Malaysia’s progress also depends on the result of that match, though Hong Kong's massive win already gives them a distinct run-rate advantage.

ACC U-19 Elite Cup
Hong Kong v Malaysia at KEC
Hong Kong won the toss and elected to field
Malaysia: 83 off 27 overs (F.Almas 35; I.Ahmed 6-22, A. Khan 3-19)
Hong Kong: 84 for 4 off 26.5 overs (A. Ahad 3-32)
Man of the Match: Irfan Ahmed (Hong Kong)


ACC U-19 Elite Cup 2009

Pictures courtesy of Tahir Khan

Filed April 26, 2009