The ten team ACC Twenty20 Cup featured ten nations, and was by far the most competitive regional tournament so far. In Group A, were Hong Kong, hosts Nepal, Malaysia, the Maldives and Singapore. With the top two from this group realistically making it to the Qualifier, it was vital that the more established teams started well by beating Malaysia and the Maldives comfortably. The following day featured the headline clash in Group A between the two favourites. Rather surprisingly, it was Hong Kong who came out on top in a low-scorer. After Nadeem Ahmed and Aizaz Khan decimated the hosts to a disappointing 115 for 9, Irfan Ahmed, Nizakat Khan and Waqas Barkat steered Hong Kong to within a handful of runs with eight wickets remaining. Basanta Regmi took two of them to improve his figures, but he couldn't stop the inevitable defeat. This was the deciding factor regarding group standings; Hong Kong finished top with four wins from four, while Nepal were second with three. Singapore were the biggest disappointment, their sprawling club set-up failing to convert to international success.
Group B followed a remarkably similar pattern, with the UAE and Afghanistan progressing past Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. Oman, after making the previous Qualifier, were the major let down in this group, finishing fourth out of five after being thoroughly beaten on merit by the rising stars of Kuwait. They could at least struggle past Bahrain. Afghanistan, the favourites, were also beaten to the top of the group by the UAE, although as both teams are already qualified, it was something of a dead rubber.
In the finals, both group-toppers were eliminated at the semis, although both had qualified for the UAE in October. Najibullah Zadran kept a calm enough head to guide Afghanistan past Hong Kong, while Nepal were roused by their adoring fans to power past the UAE in the spectacular Kirtipur ground. The Emirates grabbed third spot, while the Afghans proved too strong for Nepal to complete a fairytale home win.
Hamid Hassan is arguably world class. He will want to show that in Bangladesh.