Hong Kong veteran batters marshal team to win over Qatar in ACC Premier Cup

Half-centuries from Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat helped Hong Kong out of a hole, powering the team to a 26-run win.

Hong Kong outlasted Qatar by 26 runs in both teams' first match of the ACC Premier Cup. Photo credit: Asian Cricket Council

The first dozen minutes of a cricket game – or any sporting event, for that matter – often fails to encapsulate the trajectory of the affair. 

A team can seemingly hold an iron grip on the game – orchestrating the flow of play to leave their opponents struggling to find a foothold. 

So although Hong Kong lost its opening duo just nine balls into Friday’s bout, the apprehension that pervaded the team’s dugout was for nought. 

Hong Kong’s veteran pair – captain Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat – quickly stole the spotlight from the squad’s two openers, both of whom walked off the field with four runs on the scoresheets, respectively. 

Khan and Hayat, who most recently competed as foes in club cricket, immediately established a grounding for Hong Kong. And their combined experience of 20 years enabled them to anchor their squad’s innings – within 4.3 overs of the duo’s initiation, Hong Kong added 44 runs to their total, landing at 54 after the powerplay. 

At this stage, Khan and Hayat had only committed less than half of their barrage. 

And right after this stage, Hayat nudged the ball to cover for a single – jogging into run 1,500 of his T20I career. 

A relatively muted three overs followed – but served as a stabilizer in what was a volatile start to Hong Kong’s innings. Hayat watered the parched drought in the 10th over, getting enough bat on the leather to clear the cow corner region and add six to his tally. 

And then, it was a case of déjà vu. 

The first ball of the 11th over, a seemingly routine single guided toward long on, appeared pedestrian at first glance – but was the catalyst that allowed captain Khan to parrot his long-time companion and register his own 1,500-run milestone in T20I cricket. 

Halfway through its attack, Hong Kong was parked at 81/2 – a figure buttressed by Hayat and Khan, and one unforeseen after the squad lost two wickets in 1.3 overs to start the contest. Hayat leveraged a short delivery from Adnan Mirza and unleashed a missile over the ropes in the 12th over to reach his half-century. 

Déjà vu, case two. 

Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat fist bump each other – the duo helped Hong Kong put 201 runs on the board Friday. Photo credit: Asian Cricket Council

In a bid to safeguard against a potential collapse following Hayat’s dismissal, Khan dispatched three maximums in the 14th over. The second, blasted with brute force over the long on boundary, propelled the skipper to his half-century mark. 

Although confusion in the middle between Khan and Anshuman Rath triggered a run-out expulsion for the former, Aizaz Khan quickly took over his captain’s reins. Hong Kong perched at 126/4 after 14 overs following Nizakat’s scalp. 

Capitalizing on Amir Farooq’s pace, Aizaz managed monstrous elevation through the 18th over to accumulate 28 runs. The two-way veteran got underneath the ball to generate four boundaries in the over. 

After a seven-ball, three-wicket slump – courtesy of consistent line and length from Musawar Shah who pouched two victims in the stretch – precipitated what could have been the downfall of Hong Kong’s attack. 

Zeeshan Ali wouldn’t be compliant with that verdict, however. Gayan Buddika leaked 15 runs in the final over as Ali summoned up three consecutive boundaries to post 201 runs on Hong Kong’s side of the board.

Saqlain Arshad and Mohammad Ahnaff – who entered the crease following opener Adnan Mirza’s early ousting – made use of loose deliveries and a lightning-quick outfield to collectively bag 41 runs in 3.2 overs as the powerplay concluded. 

The duo ensured Qatar remained a maximum of two runs short of its required run rate up until the halfway mark – where the squad had posted 81 runs on the board, mirroring Hong Kong’s tally at the same phase. 

But when Yasim Murtaza created a two-run, one-wicket exhibition in the 12th over and induced Mohammad Ahnaff to spoon an easy catch to the hands of Nizakat, Qatar was striking at six runs below its 13.75 required rate. Arshad forfeited his lifeline in the 11th, directly after notching his 50 – leaving control in the hands of Kamran Khan and Muhammad Tanveeer. 

Qatar’s middle over batsmen revived the team from what was becoming a batting slump. Kamran Khan’s production reignited an impulse and triggered Tanveer to further rally his squad back into Friday’s affair. 

Tanveer sailed consecutive deliveries over the ropes in the 15th over. After blasting five more boundaries, Nasrulla Rana capped his knock off at 46 runs with a full toss pressuring the Qatari skipper to loft the leather toward deep point and see himself off the field in the 19th over. 

Ehsan Khan polished off his spell with a two-run, two-wicket final over – after which, Qatar had recorded 175 runs and succumbed to a 26-run defeat of Hong Kong in the teams’ first match of the ACC Premier Cup. 

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