For Hong Kong, it was a simple formula in last match of the first round of the World Cup Qualifiers 2018: beat Nepal to go to Super Sixes and retain ODI status. They will now await the result of the Hong Kong versus Nepal match to know their fate. For Afghanistan, who had just one victory against Nepal from four matches, it was even simpler: Nepal beat Hong and they are through.
Aizaz Khan and Ehsan Khan grabbed two wickets apiece as Nepal stumbled to 66 for five in the 20th over but RK Paudel (48) and Sompal Kami (37) stayed together to take their side to victory. The winners of the two classification playoffs - between Netherlands (Group A, 4th spot) and Hong Kong (Group B, 5th spot), and PNG (Group A, 5th spot) and Nepal (Group B, 4th spot) will square-off in the 7th place playoff, while the losers will play in the 9th place playoffs.
Hong Kong reduced Nepal to 66/5 in pursuit of only 154 for victory.
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Poudel and Sompal added 89 runs after a scary moment when Nepal lost quick wickets of Anil Kumar Sah (26), Gyanendra Malla (12) and skipper Paras Khadka (11). Nepal, however, also failed to reach the Super Six phase.
Hong Kong's Anshuman Rath fought a lone battle scoring 85 but wickets continued to fall at the other end until the Asian side was bowled out for 174 in 46.5 overs. Craig Ervine and Sean Williams forged a brief 24-run stand for the seventh wicket before the latter became Nawaz's third victim. He featured in an 86-run sixth-wicket partnership with captain Jason Holder, who hit three fours and a six in a 71-ball 54.
Windies fast bowler Kemar Roach then picked up two early wickets of Paul Stirling (18) and Andrew Balbirnie (9) and then returned to dismiss the unsafe looking Ed Joyce (63, 86b, 7x4) and Kevin O'Brien (38) in a space of four deliveries to finish will figures of 10-3-27-4 as Ireland slipped from 166-4 to 205 all out in 46.2 overs. The ones that finish top three amongst them would be granted ODI status for the next four years.
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This comes after Afghanistan cricket chief Shafiq Stanikzai apologised to fans on Thursday after the team's shock defeat by Hong Kong, which left the team's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup hanging by a thread.
The victor of this tie will play against the victor between Hong Kong and Netherlands for seventh place and last spot left to be grasped for ODI status.
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