Asia Cup 2018: India’s middle order in focus in low-key Hong Kong game
Rohit Sharma leads India at the 2018 Asia Cup. @Getty

Game four of the 2018 Asia Cup in Dubai on Tuesday pits India against Hong Kong, and if the result of Sunday’s match against Pakistan is any indication, Anshuman Rath’s team is up against a mountain.

Such is the nature of the Asia Cup that one defeats turns the next game into a virtual knock-out. Being bowled out for 116 – the lowest ODI total in Dubai – shows that Hong Kong have their work cut out against an Indian bowling attack featuring the formidable wrist-spinning pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal who bamboozled South Africa earlier this year and gave England’s batsman some tough times this summer.

For India, without Virat Kohli and led by Rohit Sharma, this is a return to ODI after five Test matches against England. India have to lock in their pool of players for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, and with several members of the current squad attempting comebacks, getting the right combinations is critical. Ahead of the big match with Pakistan on Wednesday, making a strong start against Hong Kong on Tuesday is the way forward.

Date: September 18

Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Time: 17:00 IST

Weather: Hot and humid with a high of 41 degrees

Team News

India 

In the absence of Kohli, KL Rahul is expected to bat at No 3. Thereafter, only MS Dhoni’s place at No 5 is locked with India having to choose from between Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik for two spots. Jadhav, Pandey and Rayudu are all returning to India’s ODI squads. Jadhav may be the frontrunner given his handy partnership-breaking off spin, and Karthik could get the nod given that he played in England.

Kedar Jadhav's bowling should tilt the scales in his favour
Kedar Jadhav’s bowling should tilt the scales in his favour. @AFP

With two spinners certain, the two fast-bowling spots should rightfully go to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah with Hardik Pandya the allrounder.

Probable XI: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 KL Rahul, 4 Kedar Jadhav, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Hong Kong 

Given that no bowler was decimated during Sunday’s loss to Pakistan, chances are that the same attack is persisted with. Hong Kong will need much more from their leading run-getters in ODIs, Babar Hayat (766 runs) and Rath (755) to give the bowlers something to work with, should they bat first.

Probable XI: 1 Nizakat Khan, 2 Anshuman Rath (capt), 3 Babar Hayat, 4 Christopher Carter, 5 Kinchit Shah, 6 Ehsan Khan, 7 Aizaz Khan, 8 Scott McKechnie (wk), 9 Tanwir Afzal, 10 Ehsan Nawaz, 11 Nadeem Ahmed

Statistics

- Nizakat Khan needs 17 runs to become the third Hong Kong batsman to 600 runs in ODIs.

- Rohit Sharma averages 75 against Associates in ODI cricket.

Head-to-Head

- The one time these two teams met during the 2008 Asia Cup, India won by 256 runs

Quotes

“There were a lot of soft dismissals and 120 is not good enough. At the end of the day we wanted to put up a fight and we just didn’t try.” – Anshuman Rath

“Every team wants to go World Cup knowing their combination. Having said that, I feel it is important to focus on job at hand and not look to far ahead.” – Rohit Sharma