Super Over victory allows Hong Kong to claim Bilateral Series title against Qatar with 2-1 finish

Qatar and Hong Kong didn’t stray beyond a 10-run gap of each another through three matches of the teams’ 2024 Bilateral Series, and in the final showdown, that margin between the teams moved nowhere, requiring a Super Over to crown a victor.

Hong Kong took its first intercontinental journey of the year to Doha, Qatar, for an inaugural bilateral series against the resident nation from Tuesday to Friday. Coach Simon Willis’ squad added yet another international series to its 2024 slate, preparing for April’s 2024 ACC Men’s Premier Cup and a potential Asia Cup berth.

Qatar made its return to international contention after a four-month hiatus, while Hong Kong’s resume in that stretch featured a Tri-Nations Series, Bilateral Series against Malaysia and East Asia Cup. But the disadvantage proved hardly an obstacle to the hosts.

Hong Kong’s captain Nizakat Khan and his opening counterpart Martin Coetzee took to the middle to commence the opening showpiece.

The captain’s fall in the eighth over triggered two more in the following four, all while Coetzee remained a mainstay at the crease. The ex-South African First Class batter notched his first half-century of the year – but his glory reverberated as a theme of the series.

A stable partnership ensued with Coetzee and Aizaz Khan, who blasted two maximums while rotating the strike for Coetzee to take the reins. Qatar extinguished the duo’s 55-run partnership by the 18th over, before three more visiting batsmen re-entered the dugout in the penultimate over.

Chasing 172, Qatar’s opening pair fell to an early pair of scalps from Ehsan Nawaz. Despite two outings after the powerplay, Qatar was cruising to their 172 target with a 9.17 run rate, anchored by Muhammad Tanveer’s initiation to the pitch.

But that figure only drifted on a downward slope through the match’s remainder.

The trio of Nasrulla Rana, Yasim Murtaza and Aizaz kept a tight lid on Qatar’s chase, conceding just 62 runs within the trifecta and completing three dismissals. When Qatar’s required run rate edged over 10, the latter two continued their bowling onslaught and forced the count to reach 15 by the final two overs.

Two wickets fell in as many overs, and Hong Kong took a 1-0 series lead.

The following day, Qatar wouldn’t allow another shame on home turf.

Hong Kong’s barrage with the bat on Thursday took a similar narrative to the opening showcase. Only this time, Coetzee breached the triple-figure mark.

The opening duo summoned up at least one boundary in each of the first 11 overs, launching Hong Kong’s total to 112 by the 12th and Coetzee’s count to a quarter shy of 100.

Qatar experimented with medium-pace and off-spin bowling through the stretch, neither of which could rupture the enigma of Hong Kong’s openers. Muhammad Jabir ultimately dismantled Nizakat’s stumps in the final delivery of the 12th over, seeing the skipper off for 35 runs.

Qatar’s bowling goldmine Amir Farooq created two critical breakthroughs for his squad, dismissing both Coetzee and powerhouse-batsman Babar Hayat before the latter could open his account. Coetzee assault concluded at 102 runs – all of which came off just 63 balls, spurred on by 11 boundaries and four maximums.

After Hong Kong’s final two batsmen contributed 10 runs apiece, 197 was broadcasted on the boards for Qatar to chase.

Tanveer appeared Qatar’s batting stalwart after boasting a 62-run average in the team’s most recent tournament. And Thursday’s bout proved no different.

Error-ridden bowling from Hong Kong through the opening overs of Qatar’s chase allowed a slew of boundaries and extras to bolster the latter’s total. But Haroon Arshad and Anas Khan ultimately reversed the damage, together claiming three wickets in two overs.

Following the sixth over, where Qatar had four batsmen back in the dugout, Tanveer grabbed the helm and delivered a steady yet explosive 80-run knock off 46 balls. Five fours and six maximums in the process maintained Qatar’s run rate over eight throughout the chase.

A sloppy 17th and 18th over yielded 42 runs, after which three more boundaries catapulted Qatar to 200 runs by the 19.1 over mark – two more than what was required of its chase, and in five balls faster than it needed.

The series teetered on a 1-1 record ahead of Friday’s finale.

A stellar stint from fast-bowler Dhanjay Rao expelled almost the entirety of Qatar’s opening arsenal for just four runs. His pace counterpart Ayush Shukla joined in on the act in the fourth over, as Saqlain Arshad clipped the ball to the safe hands of Coetzee.

Two more dismissals within the first 10 overs had Qatar reeling at 47/6. A budding partnership took shape late in the 13th over, contributing stability and 63 runs to Qatar’s tally.

But Rana snapped that lifeline in the penultimate over, after which Shukla debarred Himanshu Rathod – Qatar’s last hope – from the attack in the innings’ final delivery.

But even 125 runs proved too hefty for Hong Kong to chase.

The visitors took five critical blows in the first 11 overs of their innings. Nizakat, Anshuman Rath, Aizaz and Hayat recorded 25 runs as a quartet as Coetzee managed to blast 31, but Hong Kong found itself in dire straits at 60/5 by the 12th.

Zeeshan Ali and Murtaza again boasted identical tallies, this time with 29 each. They sailed Hong Kong to a wicket-less 7.3 overs, after which Murtaza was replaced by Rana when the team needed six runs to win in the final eight balls.

A Rana boundary in the last ball of the 19th over relieved the final-over burden, as the remaining pair needed just a couple off the 20th.

But Rathod ensured the diminutive figure would be insurmountable.

The masterful off-spinner created more wickets than runs in the final six deliveries. After one run off the second ball, Rathod banished both Rana and Ehsan Khan from the middle and forced a super over.

But the tie-breaker was barely a battle.

Hayat and Coetzee were trusted for Hong Kong’s over. The former, who took the reins throughout, mustered 21 runs featuring two maximums and not one single or dot ball.

Double-digit runs within an over is unlikely in regulation – much less in a potential elimination round.

Ehsan Khan, Hong Kong’s veteran, assumed control with the ball and executed to Willis’ plea – expelling Tanveer early and then allowing just three runs to ensure Qatar couldn’t lay a finger on the trophy.

A dominating super-over finish capped off a seesaw match and rollercoaster series in favor of the men in red. Coetzee picked up the Player of the Series award, a testament to his 69-run average, as Hong Kong booked an extra seat for its hardware upon the team’s return home.

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