Rath and Khans leave Netherlands trekking through the desert

Hong Kong 183 for 4 (Nizakat 59) beat Netherlands 92 (Rath 3-6) by 91 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Nizakat Khan slashes another boundary over backward point to bring up a half-century © Peter Della Penna

At around 9.10pm in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening, Netherlands had one foot in the door of the semi-finals of the inaugural Desert T20 Challenge. They were 49 for 0 in five overs, leaving 100 to get off the final 15. Moments later, Ben Cooper was caught at deep square leg in the final over of the Powerplay, the first domino to fall in a remarkable Scotland win.

At around 9.10pm in Dubai 24 hours later, Ben Cooper fell once again in the final over of the Powerplay, bowled by Ehsan Khan of Hong Kong. But, at this stage of the Dutch chase, they already had one foot out the door of the tournament. Going after a target of 184, their leading scorer – Michael Rippon – fell missing a reverse sweep on his first ball in the opening over. Captain Peter Borren was run out after an awful mix-up with Cooper in the second.

Cooper went next and, two overs later, Wesley Barresi skied a chance in the circle towards Anshuman Rath at cover. Roelof van der Merwe made it to the striker’s end and was yelling for Barresi to cross so that, if the catch was taken, at least van der Merwe would be on strike rather than a new batsman. But Barresi had already tucked his bat under his arm and begun walking to the pavilion, underscoring the Dutch despondency. Thirty-five minutes later, Nizakat Khan took the final catch to officially KO Holland.

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Wrath of Khan? No. Rath and Khans? Yes

Coming off their 87-all-out first-innings implosion against Oman and with only a slim mathematical calculation keeping them afloat for a chance at the semi-finals, expectations were low for 17th-ranked Hong Kong, especially coming up against the 11th-ranked Netherlands. Nizakat ambushed van der Merwe in the first over, smacking the first three balls for four through point and over mid-on. Borren and van der Merwe had to pause to realign the field.

After two dots, van der Merwe produced the desired result as Nizakat laced a drive to Ahsan Malik at cover point, but he spilled a regulation chance at head height and Nizakat continued to plunder the Dutch attack until he was run out for 59. If they thought the wicket would provide respite, the Dutch were in for a rude awakening.

Rath came to the crease at the fall of Nizakat and when captain Babar Hayat fell in the 13th it brought Waqas Khan to the middle. The pair continued to keep Netherlands’ bowling attack off balance with a mix of orthodox and inventive shots to add 77 in seven overs. Rath’s innings stood out most, though, because he played against type. Usually a reserved accumulator, the left-hander charged down the pitch, shuffled back and forth, anything to throw the fast bowlers off their lines. It was an effective ploy allowing him to hit over the infield and pierce unprotected gaps on the boundary.

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Rath then capped off his Man-of-the-Match performance with the ball by striking on his first two deliveries in the 10th over to reduce Netherlands to 52 for 7, then took another in the 12th. His only blemish on the night came with the score on 69 for 9 when he came in off the deep midwicket rope only to see a chance go over his head and land just over the rope for six. Netherlands added 23 more runs in all as a result, which could be crucial in the context of the net-run-rate tiebreaker if Scotland hands Oman a defeat on Thursday.

“Devastated yesterday, embarrassed today”

That was Borren’s description in the post-match press conference as he reflected on how the meltdown against Scotland in Abu Dhabi compared to the lie-down against Hong Kong in Dubai, making them the first team from their half of the draw to be eliminated.

“The two are not unrelated,” Borren said. “We obviously had a few hours to review yesterday and then to look forward to tonight. The way that yesterday’s game panned out, it probably wasn’t quite long enough given what we’ve done here tonight because we simply were not good enough tonight.”

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A Hong Kong box of chocolates

Hong Kong opened the 2015 World T20 Qualifier in Ireland with a nine-wicket throttling at the hands of Jersey. Two matches later, they defended 129 to beat Ireland at Malahide. A day later, USA doled out a convincing seven-wicket thumping to leave them on the brink of missing the knockout round. Seventy-two hours later, they had beaten Afghanistan for the first time in seven T20 attempts in a last-ball thriller to punch their ticket to the World T20 in India.

At this tournament, they followed up a stinker against Oman with a blooming rose of a showing against Netherlands. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, Hong Kong is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Coach Simon Cook says the side’s inconsistency can be put down to giving young players as many opportunities to play so they can learn and grow on the field.

“It’s a challenge,” Cook said. “Our consistency has been slow starting to tournaments. It’s about getting the back-against-the-wall attitude in terms of winning every game from the first game, rather than waiting until we are literally backs against the wall to pull out performances like this.”

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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