Afghanistan demolish Hong Kong to reach Asiad semis

Guangzhou: Afghanistan outclassed Hong Kong by eight wickets to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Games cricket tournament on Wednesday, skittling their opponents for 63 in a one-sided contest.

It sets them up with a clash against Pakistan for a place in the final.

Hong Kong, who won the toss and chose to bat in the Twenty20 contest, had no answer to Afghan opening pair Shahpur Zadran and Merwais Ashraf, slumping to 15-6 in the eighth over.

Zadran grabbed 2-9 and Ashraf took 3-8 in their allotted four-over spells as the Hong Kong batsmen looked out of their depth on a pitch offering some encouragement to the bowlers.

Hong Kong staged a mini-recovery, with Jamie Atkinson hitting a six over midwicket in his 16 off 28 balls but he was bowled by captain Mohammad Nabi when aiming to hit out, reducing the side to 41-7 in the 12th over.

They were bowled out for 63 in 17.4 overs, with Nadeem Ahmed the only other batsmen to reach double figures, top-scoring with 17.

Hong Kong`s opening bowlers Aizaz Khan and Irfan Ahmed looked lively but failed to make the early breakthroughs required and Afghanistan reached their target in the 14th over for the loss of just two wickets.

Mohammad Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal both finished unbeaten on 20.

"We are a good bowling side. We have two fast bowlers and it`s difficult to bat on this wicket as it`s a seaming wicket," said skipper Nabi.

"It`s not going to be easy to play Pakistan. They are a good team, especially on this wicket but we`ve played very well in the past three or four years and we have played together as a team."

Coach Rashid Latif, a former Pakistan Test player, said he was confident Afghanistan could beat Pakistan in Thursday`s semi-final, predicting a low-scoring contest on the bowler-friendly pitch.

"On paper Afghanistan are stronger than Pakistan and I`m very hopeful because my players are mentally and physically tough. We have a good fast bowling and spinning attack and are agile in the field," he said.

Also through to the last four are Bangladesh, who will face either Sri Lanka or Nepal, playing later Wednesday.

Last year Afghanistan rose to the International Cricket Council`s (ICC) Division One, narrowly missing out on a place in the World Cup to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh next year.

They qualified for the World Twenty20 held in the West Indies earlier this year by winning qualifying rounds in Dubai.

Bureau Report

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