Hong Kong players celebrate a PNG wicket - HK vs PNG - 1st WCL match - Round 7 - Image by ICC/Getty Images @ICC - www.icc-cricket.com

Hong Kong secured their place in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in Mar 2018 in Zimbabwe with a hard fought victory in the 1st WCL match in round 7 of ICC World Cricket League Championship against Papua New Guinea by 23 runs.

Papua New Guinea had already qualified for the World Cup Qualifiers after the conclusion of round 6 of the Championship but needed the win to be in the hunt for #13 spot in the ICC ODI League from 2019-2021. The loss means that Netherlands qualify as #13 team in the ODI League and are also crowned the 2015-2017 ICC World Cricket League Champions.

Hong Kong’s victory also meant that Kenya, who earlier lost to Scotland are now relegated to ICC WCL Division 2 along with UAE, Nepal, Namibia, Canada & Oman.

PNG put Hong Kong into bat first and did a good job in the final overs to restrict them to 230/8 in their allotted 50 overs. Hong Kong’s total was once again built around Babar Hayat’s knock of 77 off 120 deliveries. Batting was difficult on the slow pitch as 4 other batsmen including Anshuman Rath (37 off 54), Nizakat Khan (21 off 37), debutante Scott McKechnie (29 off 42) and Tanwir Afzal (26 off 21) managing to get decent starts but failed to convert them into bigger innings.

Norman Vanua (2/54), Alei Nao (2/43), Chad Soper (2/51) and Mahuru Dai (2/34) picked up 2 wickets apiece for Papua New Guinea.

In reply, PNG got off to a terrible start as they lost Tony Ura (22), Kiplin Doriga (0), Lega Siaka (2) and Vala (3) inside the first 9 overs into the chase. With the side stuttering at 29/4, Sese Bau (59 off 91) and Mahuru Dai (60 off 76) came together to put on a 98-runs partnership that brought PNG back in the game. Jack Vare (16) and Norman Vanua (14) also chipped in with some handy runs, before falling to Ehsan Nawaz (2/56) during the final overs.

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At 192/8, PNG were in all sorts of trouble and the final 2 wickets managed to add 15 more runs before getting all out for 207 in 47 overs to hand Hong Kong a close victory by 23 runs. When the final wicket fell, the Netherlands players at the ICC Academy balcony watching the match keenly after winning their match against Namibia, were in all sorts of joy. A long wait has ended with reclaiming ODI status, clinch #13 spot in ICC ODI League and win the WCL Championship with a spot in the World Cup Qualifiers already cemented at the conclusion of round 6 in October 2017.

Nadeem Ahmed (2/32), Tanwir Afzal (2/31) and Ehsan Nawaz (2/56) were the pick of the bowlers for Hong Kong with a wicket apiece for Eizaz Khan and Ehsan Khan.

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