Ireland stunned by battling Hong Kong
Hong Kong heaped further pressure on Ireland at Malahide on Friday as Charlie Burke's charges inflicted a second successive Group A defeat on the co-hosts following Wednesday's reverse at the hands of Papua New Guinea.
William Porterfield won the toss and asked the visitors to have a bat but despite restricting Charlie Burke's men to 129 for 8 in their 20 overs this was far from vintage Ireland in the field. A series of dropped catches hardly helped in the overall scheme of things although a good recovery with the ball from Kevin O'Brien (3-32) and George Dockrell (2-21) meant Hong Kong never quite got away.
An impressive opening spell from Craig Young (1-17 from 3) got the Irish off on the right foot while a 44-run stand for the 2nd wicket between Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan was as good as it was to get for Hong Kong with the bat. At the half-way point the score was 52-1 but wickets then tumbled fairly regularly as the chase for runs intensified.
Anshuman was bowled for 22 attempting to sweep Dockrell and soon after Gary Wilson pulled off a sharp stumping from a Kevin O'Brien "wide" to see off Nizakat for 25. Skipper Tanwir Afzal made 18 late on but the pick of the batting unit was Mark Chapman who was out for 30 from the last ball of the innings as the hosts tidied things up in good style.
The reply didn't start all that well as Andrew Balbirnie was dropped by Chapman off the bowling of Haseeb Amjad in the first over but was then caught at third man by Aizaz Khan off the very next ball. William Porterfield and Paul Stirling were soon fighting back however, Stirling particularly sore on Aizaz, taking 20 off his first over.
The introduction of Irfan Ahmed into the attack broke that pair up and was to eventually change the pattern of the match; Irfan tempting Stirling (34) into a mistimed pull that was caught by Nadeem running around from deep midwicket. As the boundaries dried up in the middle overs the batting side were forced to push for ones and twos but an excellent bit of work in the deep then saw Kevin O'Brien run out and Ireland in a bit of trouble on 63-3.
Porterfield and Gary Wilson added 30 to that before Aizaz was brought back into the attack and made up for his earlier pummelling by having Wilson caught behind for 16; replays showing the ball came off the batsman's upper arm.
Ireland were struggling now and with rain threatening and the batting team behind on DLS, Haseeb bowled Porterfield for 28. The tide had turned completely and from the very next ball Stuart Thompson was brilliantly run out by Tanwir attempting a quick single. Stuart Poynter (7) and George Dockrell came and went too and despite a really valiant 8-ball 18 not out from John Mooney, it wasn't to be enough.
Hong Kong had 5 runs to spare at the end in what was a really spirited performance from them- Irfan Ahmed deservedly picking up the man of the match award for his 3-11 from 4 overs as Ireland flattered to deceive with the bat. Anything less than a win against Jersey for the home side on Sunday now could spell real trouble for John Bracewell's hopes of qualifying for India next year.