Hong Kong win in last gasp thriller
Afghanistan and Hong Kong today put on the best match of the tournament so far, and possibly one of the best T20Is ever.
Afghan captain Asghar Stanikzai won the toss and - somewhat surprisingly given how successful teams have been batting first in morning matches in this tournament - chose to bat first. Mohammad Shahzad was in his usual mode early on, playing some ugly looking - but effective - shots as he got to 20 from 13 balls after 3 overs.
But he went for one hoik too many though and was caught from the first ball of the fourth over. Former captain Nawroz Mangal and current captain Asghar Stanikzai were then able to ensure that Afghanistan didn't collapse, putting on 68 for the second wicket in 8 overs before Stanikzai was out for 29.
Mangal was the next man out, but not before he had scored 53 from just 36 balls. The runs began to dry up, thanks to some excellent fielding from the young Hong Kong team. Kinchit Shah took a sensational catch to remove Najib Zadran, running round from deep midwicket to long on before diving to catch the ball about a foot off the ground.
Afghanistan managed to take 24 runs from the final two overs to give them a good total of 161-7. A stiff target for Hong Kong, but they proved to be more than up to the challenge.
Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran bowled aggressively in the first four overs, but it wasn't until the introduction of the medium pace of Mirwais Ashraf that a wicket fell. Irfan Ahmed was fooled by a slower delivery from the third ball of the fifth over, and chipped the ball straight to the Afghan captain at mid-on.
Ashraf bowled his four overs straight through, taking 1-22, with 10 of those coming from his final over. That was the eleventh of the Hong Kong innings, and the team was on 74-1 at that stage. They looked to be scoring too slowly, but the excitement was still to come.
Nizakat Khan was caught for 26 down at third man off one of about six back foot no balls bowled by Shapoor Zadran that went uncalled. In his next over, he had Jamie Atkinson caught for 47 - scored at exactly a run a ball. This brought Mark Chapman to the crease and he ran three from his first ball to get Hong Kong needing 62 from the final five balls.
Chapman began playing what has to be one of the most crucial innings of his career. 13 were taken from the 16th over, leaving 49 needed from the final four. Chapman was leading the way, with some amazingly inventive shots. There were 12 runs from both the 17th and 18th over and then nine from the penultimate over as Chapman took his score to 40 from just 24 balls.
With 16 needed from the last over and the game very much in the balance, it swung back to the two time champions when Chapman holed out to Nawroz Mangal on the long on boundary from the first ball. Babar Hayat - who had been quietly nudging the odd single whilst Chapman hit away - then swung it back to Hong Kong with a four and a six to leave them needing six from three balls.
Nabi - bowling this final over - was in even deeper trouble when he bowled a wide, and this was followed by Hayat running three to take it to two runs to win from the final two balls. Tanwir Afzal tried to steal a quick single but was run out, leaving Hayat needing to score two from the final ball.
He pushed the ball to long on and came back for a second run to complete the five wicket win and spark wild celebrations amongst the Hong Kong players, who ran on to the field to mob Hayat.
Hong Kong will now play Scotland in the first semi-final on Saturday, but the main business of qualifying for the World Twenty20 has been done. Afghanistan have a must win qualifying play-off against Papua New Guinea on Thursday.