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HONG KONG, November 1: Traditional Cathay Pacific/Standard Chartered Hong Kong International Cricket Sixes crowd favourites Pakistan and India provided the marquee match-up of day one at the 2003 championship, with a pulsating pool game setting the four-time champions on course to perhaps defend their title at the Kowloon Cricket Club.

Thanks to miserly overs of 1/2 from Imran Nazir and 2/6 from Abdul Razzaq to close the Indian innings at a disappointing 58/4, their fierce rivals cruised to a comfortable victory with Azhar Mahmood's 32 not out leading his team to a four-wicket triumph.

Although the wickets of Nazir and Naveed Latif from successive Sairaj Bahutule deliveries caused some concern in the third over, Pakistan - champions in Hong Kong in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2002 - were able to bounce back from their shock morning loss to New Zealand and keep themselves in contention for the Cup phase. That defeat was their first at the Hong Kong tournament since the 1997 Sixes, where they lost to England before going on to take the title for the second time.

Pakistan captain Moin Khan was understandably thrilled to have repelled the Indian charge.

Said Moin: "I am very relieved to have beaten our great rivals after losing our first match. Against New Zealand everything seemed to go wrong from the first over when we lost two wickets and we finished 15 or 20 runs short (of a competitive total)."

"However, I am very satisfied to have come back so well and get back on track. Now our target is to win the tournament again."

Pakistan now need to defeat Hong Kong tomorrow morning to join New Zealand in the Cup semi-finals from Pool 1, with a loss sending them into a tiebreaker with India based on run-rates for the second Plate spot with the hosts.

While the traditional Sixes heavyweights garnered the majority of the day one attention, it was New Zealand and Sri Lanka who provided the surprises - and proved the first to qualify for the Cup semi-finals in their respective pools.

The Kiwis, making their first appearance in Hong Kong since 1996, cruised through their opening-day tests, notching a perfect 3-0 record in Pool 1. Their five-wicket disposal of Hong Kong was just a taste of things to come, as the men from Down Under caused the biggest upset in recent Sixes history with a six-wicket triumph over Pakistan.

After restricting the Pakistanis to 78/5, in large part thanks to Andre Adams' opening over of 2/0, a New Zealand batting blitzkrieg saw them reach 79 without loss. Although the shock result saw them safely through to the Cup semi-finals, New Zealand belted India in their final pool game just for good measure - to see them progress in peak form.

Said Kiwi skipper Matthew Horne: "We came into the tournament as something of an unknown quantity and we are delighted to have won all three of our matches. It is more than we could have hoped for.

"We have some dynamic young guys in our team and we have been placing a big emphasis on enjoying ourselves. However, we are not thinking too far ahead. Things can change very quickly in this form of cricket."

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, so often overshadowed by their sub-continental rivals, raced out of the blocks to register victories over Kenya and South Africa within the first four matches of the day's schedule. Thanks to a vagary in the draw, the Lankans' day one commitments were done by 11.30 am, with a place in the elite semi-finals virtually secured before the completion of their pool requirements early Sunday morning against England.

Thanks to a superb effort from Darren Maddy in the final over of the last match of the day, restricting Kenya to just six runs when 14 would have given the Africans a popular win, England held on to hopes of reaching the Cup stage.

Last year's finalists will play Sri Lanka in the first match of Sunday. Victory for them will see Sri Lanka, England and South Africa tied with two wins from three matches. While the Lankans would hold the best run-rate of the three in that situation, the remaining spot in the Cup semi-finals would be between England and South Africa.

Provided by CCIL/Hong Kong Cricket Association. For further information, please contact Danny Lai at (852) 2504-8102.

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