Asked to bat at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Kuala Lumpur, UAE started slowly and were reduced to 65 for 3 in 15.2 before the rain arrived and shortened the match to 24 overs per side. When the rain stopped, Ashfaq Ahmed (51-ball 79) and other batsmen came out all guns blazing and smashed 111 runs in the remaining 8.4 overs to take UAE 176 for 9 in 24 overs.
Set a revised target of 179, a couple of 20s and 30s from their batsmen took Hong Kong over the line in the final over. They finished on 179 for 8 in 23.3 overs.
Earlier, Ashfaq and Chirag Suri added 54 runs for the opening wicket to give UAE a decent start. It was Ashfaq who did the major chunk of scoring with Suri playing the second fiddle. The stand was broken by Tanwir Afzal (1 for 26) who knocked over Suri for 12. That's when right-arm seamer Aizaz took over and dismissed captain Rohan Mustafa (nought) and Rameez Shahzad (2) in rapid succession.
After few overs, the rain started pouring down and there was no cricketing action for almost five hours. With no reserve day, UAE would have progressed to the main stage of the Asia Cup by virtue of topping the group. However, the match finally commenced, giving UAE batsmen 52 deliveries to play with.
Ashfaq continued the attack and smoked nine fours and six maximums during his stay in the middle. Shaiman Anwar (14-ball 22), Muhammad Usman (10-ball 16) and Adnan Mufti (nine-ball 16) too chipped in with handy cameos to propel UAE to a competitive total. Lower-order batsmen Mohammad Naveed, Amir Hayat and Abdul Shakoor blasted a six each to ensure late flurry of wickets didn't halter UAE's charge.
For Hong Kong, Aizaz returned 5 for 28, while left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed claimed three wickets.
In reply, Nizakat Khan (20-ball 38) and skipper Anshuman Rath (25-ball 28) got Hong Kong off to a fiery start. The duo put on 64 runs in just 37 deliveries. Rath scored his runs at a fair clip but Nizakat was clearly the aggressor, hitting six fours and a maximum. Just when everything was going as per the plan, Hong Kong lost four wickets in the space of 22 balls and slumped to 82 for 4.
However, Christopher Carter and Ehsan Khan ( didn't allow UAE to make a comeback by adding 53 runs for the fifth wicket. The two mixed caution with occasional aggression to keep the scoreboard moving. Carter was run out for 32-ball 33, while right-arm pacer Mohammad Naveed (2 for 47) dismissed Ehsan for 24-ball 29 to give UAE some hope.
With 32 runs required, wicketkeeper-batsman Scott McKechnie (11-ball 14*) and Tanwir Afzal (12-ball 15) struck a couple of lusty blows to take Hong Kong closer to the total. While Afzal fell in the penultimate over, McKechnie didn't leave the crease till the job was done.
"I'd like to thank UAE for playing such a tremendous game," said Rath after the match. "Such matches, things can go either way. It did get away from us in the middle overs but we knew that we had the batting and that the pitch was a bit flat. I think the UAE batsmen after the rain delay batted really well. But we knew that it was a good wicket and that we had the batting firepower to chase it down. Luckily it happened."
Aizaz KhanAshfaq AhmedAsia Cup 2018Asia Cup Qualifiers 2018Christopher Carterhong kongNizakat KhanUAEUnited Arab Emirates
First Published: September 6, 2018, 4:43 PM IST