Hong Kong drops opening match to Malaysia amid nail-biting finish in Men’s One Day Series

Hong Kong falls to Malaysia on January 31, 2024. Photo credit: Cricket Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong lost just one wicket at the forty-over mark of its run chase. 

The early fall of right-hand batsman Martin Coetzee brought captain Nizakat Khan on the pitch for the hosts, and ignited the commencement of Khan and Anshuman Rath’s partnership – one that produced 238 runs the last time Hong Kong and Malaysia met in the One-Day format. 

Barring 55 runs, the duo once again commanded Hong Kong’s innings. Khan mustered a deliberate 77 runs as Rath registered another century against Malaysia with a 108-run showing before right-arm off-spinner Vijay Unni clipped his bails after a reverse sweep attempt.

Hong Kong’s powerhouse right-hand batsmen Babar Hayat and Zeeshan Ali were tasked with generating 63 runs off 45 balls following Rath’s dismissal. Hayat, Hong Kong’s ferocious linchpin, launched a maximum off the back foot over the training nets at Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground to initiate his side’s chase. With two consecutive nine-run overs, Ali and Hayat launched what could have become Hong Kong’s second enduring partnership. 

But when Hayat’s top edge nestled in the hands of Khizar Hayat in the 46th over, a win dragged further into the shadows for Hong Kong. 

After just one scalp in the first 40.3 overs, unstable batting through Hong Kong’s order allowed six wickets to fall in the subsequent 7.5 overs. The next man in, right-hand batsman Nasrulla Rana, barely opened his account before Muhammad Wafiq caught the outside edge of his bat to see him off with a caught-behind decision.

A sizable 13 runs loomed over Hong Kong’s final over after Malaysia’s backward point fielder dispatched the teams’ eighth victim in Ali. Singh secured back-to-back dot balls in the third and fourth deliveries, leaving eight runs off the final two balls. A single fractured Hong Kong’s prospect of a win, mandating a maximum off the final delivery to tie the game. 

Right-arm fast bowler Ehsan Nawaz scythed the final ball to the longest boundary of the Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground – where the leather kissed the ground just one meter short of the ropes for four runs. 

Hong Kong found itself on the precipice of triumph in its run chase as just one mere meter lay between the hosts and their first result of the year. 

On what appeared to be a green pitch, captain Khan declared a strategic bowl-first decision to ensure his pacers could leverage an unused wicket. Malaysia’s unprecedented 277-run exhibition – a figure that defied any initial forecasts – thrusted a formidable target to the Hong Kong dugout. 

Malaysia anchored a safe onset to its innings. Unhurriedly grinding out their runs, the men in yellow and black lost just one batsman by the 29th over. Young off-spinner Raunaq Kapur – who is making his brief return to Hong Kong after over three years in New Zealand – created Hong Kong’s imperative breakthrough.

Kapur maintained a tight lid on Malaysia’s run rate and orchestrated the ousting of Syed Aziz. The bowling linchpin culminated his comeback match with a 10-2-25-1 spell, weaving pressure into every seam for his opponents.

Dot ball intensity from Kapur and his fellow youngster, fast bowler Ayush Shukla, truncated Malaysia’s run rate to under four runs an over. 

But within the final six overs of Malaysia’s batting spectacle, right-hand batsman Sharvin Muniyandy propelled his total from 77 to 125. The visitors achieved a figure beyond anticipated, casting their rivals to a formidable run chase. 

Muniyandy’s production not only bolstered his team’s total but proved decisive in Hong Kong’s shortfall from a 278-run target. The home team will gear up to unleash its full arsenal – and that extra meter – to its next affair of the Men’s One Day Series against Canada on Saturday at 9 a.m. HKT.

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