Nizakat Khan blasted a fine half-century to help Hong Kong squeeze past Malaysia by seven wickets and into the semi-finals of the men’s cricket competition at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Tuesday.
Nizakat hit an unbeaten 63 off 48 deliveries as he put Hong Kong into prime position to win a first-ever medal at the Games.
“He batted beautifully. I’m super-proud of the way he and Jamie [Atkinson] went about getting the runs. It was close but we are through to the semi-finals,” said a relieved Hong Kong head coach, Charlie Burke.
Nizakat was dropped on the long off boundary when he was on nought and he grabbed that opportunity with both hands. He hammered two sixes and six fours in a knock filled with big, clean hits.
Hong Kong were set a reasonable target after Malaysia had reached 129 for seven in their 20 overs. Left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed was the pick of the bowlers taking three for nine from his four overs. But apart from a good tidy spell from Nizakat – two for 23 – the rest of the bowlers leaked too many runs.
Malaysian captain Ahmad Faiz was dropped early in his innings when Waqas Barkat failed to hang on to a catch off his own bowling. Faiz top-scored with 45 to help his side post a sizeable score.
“They batted well and set us a demanding total,” said Burke. Things were looking bleak for Hong Kong when openers Irfan Ahmed and Waqas were dismissed by the fourth over with the score on 18.
Irfan was out in the very first over, mis-hitting the second ball he faced to be caught by the long-off fielder. Waqas was out to a blinding catch at short mid-on by Faiz, who leapt high to cling on to a savage pull shot.
“In the past, we would have panicked, having lost our first two wickets cheaply, but today Nizakat and Jamie showed how it should be done,” Burke said.
The pair put on 68 in nine overs to calm the nerves, but Atkinson was out for 39, including four fours, trying to hit the ball out of the ground. And with Hong Kong still needing another 44 runs for victory with seven overs to go, a tight finish was on the cards.
Left-hander Mark Chapman, who scored a scratchy 13 off 21 balls, joined Nizakat and they helped Hong Kong reach the target with two balls to spare.
“Mark is coming out of a New Zealand winter and he looked a bit [out of touch]. But it was pleasing to see Nizakat stick around until the very end. The plan is if any of the first four batsmen get in, they should try and stay until the end and Nizakat did that superbly,” Burke said.
Hong Kong will now meet the winner of the match between Afghanistan and Nepal in the semi-final on Thursday.