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Hong Kong and Netherlands in T20 World Cup

Hong Kong and Netherlands have qualified to take part
in the ICC World Twenty 2016 in India following another great day’s cricket in


In the afternoon match at Malahide, the Dutch overcame
Namibia by four wickets in a repeat of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2
final last January, thanks to a solid batting and bowling display by Peter
Borren’s men.


But it was the thrilling manner in which underdog Hong
Kong got through against Afghanistan that will live long in the memory as a
fantastic advertisement for Associate cricket. It demonstrates the significant
depth in quality that exists at this level.


Chasing 162 to win, Hong Kong was always a fraction
behind the run-rate but Jamie Atkinson, Nizakat Khan and Mark Chapman managed
to hang in there, chipping away at the target all the time, eventually leaving
their team needing 16 to win off the final over, which would be bowled by
Mohammad Nabi. Chapman, who was still there on 40 at the time (25 balls, five
fours, one six) then holed out to Nawroz Mangal on the deep mid wicket boundary,
shifting the advantage further in favor of the Afghans.


Four balls then changed everything. Two full tosses
that yielded 10 runs were followed by a wide and a three turning the game on
its head as Babar Hayat rose to the occasion and, suddenly, Hong Kong needed
just two runs from two balls. But there was to be another twist as Tanwir Afzal
ran himself out off the penultimate delivery leaving Hayat on strike with two
to win from the final ball of the match and all three possible results still in


Hayat picked the length up early, hit it through the
ring at extra-cover and came back for a double that inspired wild scenes of
celebration as the entire Hong Kong dugout emptied onto the lush Malahide
outfield to embrace the 23-year-old for taking care of business at the death.


“It has been a brilliant effort. We are so happy,”
said a jubilant Hayat when the dust had settled somewhat. “We made it to the
World Twenty20 last time and we will be there again next year. It will be
another chance to show the world that cricket in Hong Kong is good. It is down
to the hard work of the boys and we never stopping believing in ourselves.”


When Hayat came to the middle, Chapman was hitting it
well and, at that point, one thought Hong Kong’s chances rested with him alone.


“I was trying to give Mark the strike because he was
batting very well so when he got out first ball of that final over I was a bit
nervous. I could see he (Nabi) was bowling yorker so I thought I would go down
the track and get it on the full and hit over mid-on or mid-off. I believed in
myself and I managed to hit a couple of boundaries. Then, when I was facing the
last ball I still thought we could do it and that I could hit two or four. So
it came down and I was able to hit it into the gap and we took an easy two runs
to win the game for Hong Kong.”


In some ways, Hong Kong has been the surprise package of this
tournament. Not mentioned as a tournament favorite, observers are starting
to accept what the players have believed all along – that they can win.


Hayat said: “We have a lot of confidence we can go on
and win the tournament now. We have beaten Ireland and now Afghanistan, who are
supposed to be the strongest teams, so we have to believe now that we can do
it. We can lift the trophy.”


Meanwhile, Namibia’s total of 135 never looked like
being enough, except perhaps after just one ball of the run-chase when
Netherlands’ prolific opener Wesley Barresi top-edged one to ’keeper JP Kotze,
giving the Africans hope of an upset.


But while Namibia’s spinners bowled well, took wickets
and never let Netherlands dominate them, that target always looked well below
par. That said, it took the Dutch until the final over as Stephan Myburgh (31),
Michael Swart (28) and Max O’Dowd (19 not out) finally got the job done with
four wickets and four balls to spare.


Netherlands assistant coach and former England Test
player Chris Adams admitted it was closer than he would have liked. He said:
“It got tight in the end and that was clearly down to the pressure of the situation
and the prize which is to be on the plane to India. Fair play to both sides –
it was a good game of cricket.


“Qualification for the World Twenty20 next year means
everything to us. It means that a passionate group of cricketers and committed,
dedicated coaching staff can continue their work and hopefully get some growth
going back at grass-roots level in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and all over the
Netherlands… It keeps them on the world stage and keeps Netherlands cricket


With qualification now in the bag, focus will now
shift to the tournament as an end in itself. Netherlands will play in the
semi-final on Saturday at Malahide against an Ireland team that is the
defending champion and the top Associate side in all formats of the game for
much of the past decade.


“Ireland are the strongest Associate side at the
moment. I think everyone see them as the best and they have some wonderful
cricketers. I think it will be a good contest on Saturday. Having a
winning mind-set is very important and that is something I have tried to ins-til
in this Netherlands team. The focus here has been on qualification but also on
winning the tournament. That is very definitely on the agenda,” said Adams.


So Hong Kong and the Netherlands head for the
semi-finals where they will play Scotland and Ireland, respectively. For
Afghanistan and Namibia, one more chance remains of qualifying for India. The
Afghans will face Papua New Guinea in Malahide on Thursday morning
with Namibia taking on Oman at the same venue in the afternoon with the last
two places on the line.


Today’s scores:

Play-Off 1

Malahide: Afghanistan 161-7,
20 overs (Nawroz Mangal 53, Asghar Stanikzai 29; Haseeb Amjad 3-28)

Kong 162-5, 20 overs (Jamie Atkinson 47, Mark Chapman 40, Nizakat Khan 26;
Shapoor Zadran 2-31)

Kong won by five wickets


Play-Off 2

Malahide: Namibia
135-6, 20 overs (Craig Williams 43, Nicolaas Scholtz 37, Sarel Burger 27; Timm
van der Gugten 2-22)

137-6, 19.2 overs (Stephan Myburgh 31, Michael Swart 28; Bernard Scholtz 3-15)

Netherlands won by four wickets

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