By Aman Huda
The Asia Cup has gotten off to a great and most entertaining start so far with Bangladesh coming back from two for three to beat Sri Lanka by a hundred and thirty-seven runs, Tamim Iqbal batting with one hand, Mushfiqur Rahim getting a century, and Usman Shinwari’s three-for and Imam Ul-Haq’s maiden ODI half-century giving Pakistan a large win over Hong Kong. Pakistan’s win was rather predictable, and Hong Kong was not able to challenge the Pakistanis that much. The only good point for Hong Kong in their encounter against Pakistan was perhaps a fifty-three run partnership between Aizaz Khan and SS McKechnie, which took Hong Kong from forty-four for five to ninety-seven for six. After that, everything seemed dismal with Hong Kong losing four wickets for nine runs and being able to take the wickets of just two Pakistani batsmen. Although Usman Shinwari was the pick of the bowlers with his three, the hardest bowler for Hong Kong to read was the leg-spinner Shadab Khan. Getting two wickets in his first over, Khan finished with figures of two four thirty-one with an economy of 3.87.
Coming up against India, Hong Kong will need to, first of all, learn to play spin better. India has an extremely dangerous left-arm spinner in Kuldeep Yadav who can cause more harm than even Shadab Khan did. Hong Kong, of course, will need to control their batting, even if it means surviving longer for fewer runs. If Hong Kong can survive the full fifty overs, it puts Hong Kong in an excellent position with a possible defensive score.
One thing that could be to Hong Kong’s advantage is the tiredness of the Indian batsmen. After coming back from their seven-week tour of England & Ireland, the likes of Hardik Pandya and Shikhar Dhawan could struggle to adjust to the UAE pitches and the ODI format. If Hong Kong can utilize their strong bowling department, they can restrict India to a low total.
However, India still has a lot in their favor. Those batsmen who did not play for India in England are still far better than those of Hong Kong, even with the step-in captain Rohit Sharma (as Virat Kohli is resting) having three double-centuries to his name. Along with having some of the best limited overs bowlers in the world, India will mix somewhat tired experience with fresh youth with the likes of Kuldeep Yadav and Khaleel Ahmed.
India will look to start strong, as they play Pakistan afterward, as faulting against Hong Kong can expose pin-points for near-perfect Pakistan on Wednesday. For this reason, India will probably play with a strong line-up, but rest a few players who absolutely need it. The UAE pitches haven’t been as batting friendly as we thought, which is why it will be important for both sides to have a few batsmen who play defensively. The match begins at 3:30 PM (15:30) UAE Time or 7:30 AM Eastern Time tomorrow in Dubai.