Dublin: Hong Kong beat Afghanistan in a last-ball thriller in Malahide on Tuesday to secure its berth at the ICC World Twenty20 2016 to be played in India.
Needing to defend 16 off the final over, Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan off-spinner, bowled a slew of full tosses that were duly put away as Hong Kong crossed the line with five wickets in hand to trigger wild celebrations.
The wicket of the well-set Mark Chapman in the first ball of the final over had tilted the scales in Afghanistan’s favour, but Babar Hayat held his composure to hit a six and a four off the next two deliveries to bring the equation down to six off three.
It looked like there would be another twist to the tale when Nabi ran out Tanwir Afzal off the penultimate delivery, but his wayward bowling proved costly for Afghanistan.
Hong Kong eventually squeezed out the two runs it needed off the last ball to ensure a berth in cricket’s biggest T20 world event for the second time in a row.
Afghanistan did all the early running after opting to bat as it posted a competitive 161 for 7 on the back of a 36-ball 56 from Nawroz Mangal, who was ably assisted by Mohammad Shahzad (20), Asghar Stanikzai (29) and Samiullah Shenwari (21).
At one stage, Afghanistan looked set to score close to 175, but crucial strikes from Haseeb Amjad, the medium pacer who took 3 for 28, restricted it towards the end.
Hong Kong set itself up nicely to get to 79 for 1 by the 13th over, with Jamie Atkinson helping it stay abreast with the asking rate with a run-a-ball 47. But Shapoor Zadran, the left-arm pacer, brought Afghanistan back into the contest with the scalps of Nizakat Khan (26) and Atkinson in successive overs to tilt the balance.
With 60 needed to win off the last five overs, Chapman unleashed his firepower, hitting five fours and a six in his 25-ball 40 to take his team to the doorstep of victory before Nabi’s last over became a constant swing of fortunes, eventually going Hong Kong’s way.
Afghanistan’s good deeds in the group stages mean it has another opportunity. Its clash against Papua New Guinea at the same venue on Thursday in Qualifier 2 will be a knockout with the winner booking its ticket to India for the main event.