20 July 2015
PREVIEW: Afghanistan, Hong Kong look to seal WT20 spot
Batsmen from both teams must maintain their form in first qualifying play-off in Malahide
Afghanistan celebrate a wicket.
Afghanistan and Hong Kong will lock horns at The Village in Malahide on Tuesday (July 21) in the first qualifying play-off of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015, knowing the winner can seal a berth for the ICC World Twenty20 2016 in India next year.
There is a safety net – the defeated side can still make its way to India if it can beat Papua New Guinea on Thursday – but both teams would want to progress at the first time of asking.
Afghanistan heads in to the clash having finished third in Group B. That said, it could have finished higher, and was unfortunate not to do so: two of the six matches it played in the pool stages were abandoned without a ball bowled. In its three wins, all back-to-back, both batsmen and bowlers came together to put in dominant displays against the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and Scotland.
There was the 40-run loss to Oman, sandwiched between the two washouts against Kenya and Canada, but Afghanistan will back itself to seal its spot for the big tournament in India next year. Mohammad Shahzad has been particularly dangerous with the bat, with 175 runs in four matches at an incredible strike-rate of 182.65 and an average of 44.75. Among the bowlers, it’s Mohammad Nabi who stands out, with eight wickets in four matches at just 14.37 and an economy rate of 7.18.
In its one loss, Afghanistan restricted Oman to 144 for 7, but in its chase, the batsmen failed to stitch together partnerships, and that eventually proved its undoing as it was bowled out for 104 in 17.5 overs. However, if the batsmen can find the form they displayed in earlier matches, it could pose problems to opponents.
Hong Kong heads in having finished just a point behind Ireland, the eventual winner of Group A. In its six matches, it won three – against Nepal, Ireland and Namibia – while losing against United States of America and its tournament opener against Jersey. The clash against Papua New Guinea was abandoned without a bowl bowled.
It cemented second spot after beating Namibia in its final group stage encounter, the excellent Irfan Ahmed scoring a 55-ball 98 to help post 197 for 8 before the bowlers bundled out Namibia for 114. That knock helped Ahmed become Hong Kong’s top scorer with 158 runs in five matches. Nizakat Khan comes second with 109 runs in as many games.
Up till that match, Ahmed’s glitzy performances were largely with the ball in hand – he is Hong Kong top wicket-taker as well, with eight wickets in five matches at 14.37 and a juicy economy of 6.69. Haseeb Amjad follows him with as many wickets in five matches, with an average of 14.75 and an economy of 6.80.
It all makes it for an enticing clash on Tuesday. How will Afghanistan’s bowlers handle Ahmed? Will its batsmen fare well against Hong Kong’s tight bowling department? With a place in the ICC World Twenty20 2016 up for grabs, there is no better time for these questions to be answered.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Javed Ahmadi, Aftab Alam, Mirwais Ashraf, Sharafudin Ashraf, Hamid Hassan, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shinwari, Dawlat Zadran, Najib Zadran, Shahpur Zadran.
Hong Kong: Tanwir Afzal (captain), Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, Jamie Atkinson, Waqas Barkat, Mark Chapman, Aizaz Khan, Anas Khan, Nizakat Khan, Giacomo Lamplough*, Ehsan Nawaz, Babar Hayat, Anshuman Rath, Kinchit Shah.