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To Hong Kong’s Challenge League prospects, Italy’s victory was a crushing blow

With a hard-fought victory by four runs at Grainville, Jersey, Italy gave Hong Kong a significant setback in its pursuit of the CWC Challenge League B championship. Italy’s victory was by four runs. Despite the tight victory, the Italians have very little chance of climbing out of the zone for teams that will be relegated. Kenya kept their two-point lead over Italy after beating Bermuda with ease, winning by a score of seven wickets to none. Kenya is virtually guaranteed to finish in fourth position given that they have a net run rate advantage that is equivalent to about 350 runs and they only have one match left to play.

In spite of Harry Manenti scoring his first century in List A, Italy was limited to 254 runs thanks to an outstanding display of top-tail bowling by Haroon Arshad. Manenti was the one who marshalled the middle order to make sure the Italians got a score up on the board. Arshad was successful in his opening spell, collecting three wickets. He got his first strike with his third delivery, a full line angling across that removed Justin Mosca’s outside edge. Nisal Rahaluge was then bowled by an inswinger from Shukla in the following over. Arshad finished the over with three wickets. After the powerplay, Italy’s score was 41/4 after Arshad had Anthony Mosca hanging the bat and edging to slip, and Dinuka Samarwickrama cramped up on the cut and edged to gully.

The innings was stabilised by Harry Manenti and Gian-Piero Meade’s stand for the fifth wicket, which scored 68 runs. Gian-Piero Meade was the one to lose his wicket in the 24th over after miscuing a pull shot from Aizaz Khan to Nizakat at mid-off. However, Manenti continued his partnership with skipper Garther Berg, reaching his fifty by guiding Ghazanfar out to deep point for a single. Kevin Kekulwala replaced Berg as Manenti’s foil after Berg went in the 38th over, down the track, and stumped Yasim Murtaza for 36 runs. However, when Arshad returned to the attack, he quickly ran down the tail, claiming four wickets in just two overs. One of those wickets was that of Manenti, who was bowled out for 106 runs off 112 balls just as Italy was about to be knocked out.

It would prove to be enough to win in the end, albeit not by a margin that would be enough to keep the Italians’ dreams alive. The Italians got frequent wickets during the early half of the game, but the Hong Kong team was able to stay in the game because to the skipper Nizakat Khan’s 68-ball 48. Aizaz Khan took over the scoring after Nizakat was caught by Jaspreet Singh in the 24th over, just after Nizakat had taken his team above the hundred-mark with his batting. After that, Berg dealt a double blow by removing Murtaza and Zeeshan Ali in consecutive deliveries, but Arshad and Aizaz added another 90 runs for the seventh wicket to the scoreboard. It was sufficient to put a stop to Italy’s ambitions, but it did not bring about a triumph.

Aizaz fell in the final over with the end in sight, given out caught behind chasing a wide delivery from Manenti for 88, which left Hong Kong four runs short and dependent on Jersey losing one of their remaining matches if they are to reclaim the top spot. Arshad was caught at mid off off Hasan in the 42nd over with 50 still needed, and Hasan was the bowler.

The victory did not do much to improve Italy’s chances of avoiding the relegation zone, as Kenya maintained their lead with a victory over Bermuda. Bermuda was able to pass 200 for the first time since the inaugural tournament in Oman in 2019, but it was not enough to prevent Kenya from winning. Kenya’s batting performance was far stronger. Irfan Karim’s unbroken 80 off 122 runs helped to anchor the chase, while big partnerships for the second and third wicket between Rushab and Rakep Patel propelled the scoring to set up an easy seven-wicket win.

Shem Ngoche took the first wicket of the Bermudian innings with the very first ball he bowled. Terryn Fray inside-edged the ball onto his foot, and Rakep took the catch at slip. This is a fairly typical beginning to an innings. However, the remainder of Bermuda’s top order all contributed in some way to the team’s achievement of their best score of the tour. As Skipper Kamau Leverock walked down the track to Collins Obuya, who was playing an absent turn, Obuya expertly stumped him for 47, leaving his team on 138/4 after 36 overs. Leverock fell three runs short of his fifty-run total.

However, the members of the lower rank rose up. Charles Trott began his counterattacking innings with 58 runs by slog-sweeping Vraj Patel for the first of four sixes. This was the beginning of his counterattacking innings. Before his partner holed out with two overs left, Trott led Bermuda past the 200-run mark with the assistance of Dominic Sabir. However, Trott and the tail ended the innings on a strong note, scoring 31 runs off the following 11 deliveries before Trott was bowled by the penultimate ball. This marked a successful conclusion to the innings.

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