Asia Cup 2018: Inexperienced Hong Kong no threat for Pakistan
A young Hong Kong side will be up against the might of Pakistan bowling. (Getty Images)

Hong Kong’s return to top-flight international cricket has been inspirational. Having lost ODI status, they did incredibly well by sealing the Qualifier spot of the Asia Cup. But their real test begins now. Lack of international cricket has been their biggest bane, and that is an area that will be put to test when they face an in-form Pakistan on Sunday in Match 2 of the Asia Cup 2018. The fifth-ranked side in the world, Pakistan may want to use this opportunity to try out certain team combinations and get into the groove before their high-voltage clash against India.

Hong Kong on the other hand, face a tough roadblock early on. With teams like India and Pakistan in the same pool, Hong Kong do not pose much of a threat to either of side. However, they have never shied away from a fight, and an inspiring performance against a World Cup winning team should be their top priority. In skipper Anshuman Rath and Babar Hayat, Hong Kong have game changers, but Pakistan have arguably the best bowling line-up in the six-nation tournament. Hence, their main aim will be to show character and prove that Hong Kong’s qualification was no fluke.

Date: September 16, Sunday

Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

Time: 1700 IST

Weather: Warm temperature with bright and clear skies. The maximum is supposed to touch 42 degrees.

Team News

Hong Kong

Rath and Co. wouldn’t want to tinker much with the combination that brought them success in the qualifiers. Rath, Nizakat Khan and Babar should comprise the top three considering they have match form. In the middle order, Christopher Carter should be an automatic pick for his ability to score quickly and so should Ehsan Khan since he provides a decent bowling option too. Fast bowler Aizaz Khan would be expected to lead the bowling unit coming off figures of 5/28, 2/16 and 2/46.

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

Pakistan

Fakhar Zaman, with 515 runs against Zimbabwe will look to set the tone, aided by the promising Imam-ul-Haq, who wants to create a name for himself in the tournament. Babar Azam, who in the same series averaged 184, will be expected to continue his fine run. Couple that with the experience of Shoaib Malik and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, and Pakistan’s have the firepower to ensure their batting shows spark. Then comes their strength, the bowling. Expect Sarfaraz to unleash the pace bowling combination of Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali on the inexperienced Hong Kong batsmen and try and bowl them out cheaply.

Probable XI: 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (captain/wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Junaid Khan

Stats and Trivia

- Pakistan are yet to lose an ODI in the UAE in the last three years.

- Babar Azam is 27 away from becoming the joint-second fastest to 2000 ODIs runs.

- Shoaib Malik and Nadeem Ahmed are the only two players still in the side since Hong Kong and Pakistan’s first encounter back in 2004.

Quotes

“All of us are very excited to be here and it is an honour and a privilege to play against some of the legends of the game. We are just going to take it game by game, we are hungry we have worked very hard to get here.” – Anshuman Rath (Hong Kong captain)

“I believe it is better for us to go series by series and not look to far ahead to the World Cup. We have a packed schedule next year, and you could say the journey to the world cup has begun. For now, the focus is Asia Cup, and the effort is to improve ourselves so that by the time we reach the world cup we will have a fair idea of the team’s strengths.” – Sarfraz Ahmed (Pakistan captain)