EC weekly roundup: Ireland break T20I drought against Afghanistan; more coronavirus cricket cancellations

Ireland T20 World Cup

In a week when the global coronavirus outbreak worsened, with the World Health Organisation officially labelling it a pandemic, the main cricket action came off the field as administrators scrambled to postpone or cancel matches. Notable international series put on ice included the Malaysia-hosted Challenge League Group A, Namibia’s home bilateral series against the Netherlands, Nepal’s Everest Premier League and the CWCL2 tri-series in Florida. For a full list of emerging events that have been affected, check this page for regular updates.

Earlier in the week, Afghanistan did manage to wrap up their 3-match T20I series against Ireland in Greater Noida. After triumphing by 11 runs on DLS in the first match, the Afghans were again too strong in the second, as skipper Ashgar Afghan and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman led them to a series-clinging victory. Coming in after a sluggish start from the openers, Ashgar stepped up the run rate with 49 (28), and was joined by the middle order in powering the Blue Tigers to an imposing 184/4. The Irish response was fitful, with Kevin O’Brien briefly flaring and Andy Balbirnie playing a steady hand of 46 (35), but 3 wickets from Mujeeb and a typically miserly spell from Rashid Khan meant Ireland fell 21 runs short.

Kevin O’Brien starred with the bat for Ireland. Photo: ICC.

The third game saw Ireland finally record a win, their first against Afghanistan in a T20I for some 7 years, after a roller-coaster tie took the match to a super over. The hero was Kevin O’Brien, Ireland’s evergreen man for the big moment, who slugged Rashid Khan for a maximum on the last ball of the super over. In regular time, he got Ireland off to a customary brisk start, before Afghanistan’s rising seamer Naveen-ul-Haq derailed the innings with a disciplined 3/21. Young guns Gareth Delaney and Harry Tector held together the middle order as they both passed 30, but Afghanistan wrested control back through debutant Qais Ahmed’s 3/25 – yet another product of their impressive spin-bowling production line – and the Irish were restricted to a middling 142/8. In response, man-of-the-series Rahmanullah Gurbaz struck an assured 42 (29) and Afghanistan were cruising at 91/2 needing 52 from 48 deliveries. The innings hit a snag in the 15th over though, as Simi Singh struck a double-blow by dismissing Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran with consecutive balls. As the chase faltered, it came down to Rashid Khan to save the day, this time with the bat, as he struck a six then a 4 off the last ball to level the scores. However, he couldn’t get the job done with the ball and Ireland headed home with a consolation victory.

With their series against the Netherlands canned, Namibian skipper Gerhard Erasmus had some extra time to watch his father Francois at the Over 50s World Cup, which started as planned before being called off on Sunday. Erasmus’ Namibia and Canada are representing the emerging nations at the event, and Canada sprung an upset in their opening match, with an assured chase of 185 against Sri Lanka completed with 9 overs to spare. Their second outing against New Zealand was significantly less successful, as they were skittled for 59 to hand the Kiwis a comprehensive 98-run victory. Namibia have struggled so far, first being thumped by 177 runs against Pakistan, then letting Wales run away with their second match by 8 wickets.

Back home in Windhoek, and Gerhard did take the field in Namibia’s domestic Richelieu T20 League. Playing for BA Blasting, the young Erasmus and skipper MD du Preez ran wild as they plundered half-centuries against MR24/7 Emergency Services to claim top spot on the ladder. In other results, the King Price Kings and M&M Signs Strikers both claimed one victory apiece while MR24/7 languish in last place after two big defeats.

And finally Hong Kong’s domestic 50-over Premier League got underway this weekend, with several of the national team stars in action across the 4 clubs who played their first matches. For Diasqua Little Sai Wan it was skipper Ehsan Khan who led the way with a sparkling 132 at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. Ably supported by his fellow national-team Khan, Waqas (89), the pair put on 190 for the 3rd wicket to carry Diasqua to an imposing 299/7 – though it may have been significantly more if HKCC captain Ian Poole hadn’t grabbed 5 late-innings wickets (including both Khans) with his offspin. In response, HKCC looked to be cruising the chase at 163/2 after 33, before a remarkable over from Mohsin Khan turned the match on its head. The left-arm seamer claimed a hattrick, including set batsmen Ben Zanol (60) and Reid Mawdsley (39), then another wicket to end the over as well as HKCC’s run chase. After that the result was a formality as they were bowled out for 217, handing Diasqua an 82-run win.

Hong Kong national team star Janie Atkinson was in fine form for his club side Kowloon. Photo: ACC.

Across town at the Kowloon Cricket Club, the hosts handed out a 7-wicket hiding to the United Services Recreation Club, as a disciplined bowling performance saw USRC restricted to just 201/9. Aizaz Khan and Ateeq Iqbal were in the wickets, while Ashley Caddy and Waqas Barqat tied the batsmen in knots with a pair of miserly spells. Muhammad Awais’ 70* saved his sides blushes with some big hits down the order, reviving an innings that was teetering at 98/6 after 35 overs. It was in vain, however, as KCC opener Rory Cox anchored the chase with 84*. Brisk contributions from Jamie Atkinson and Simandeep Singh iced the game with almost 20 overs in hand.

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