The Indians are expected to get the job done quite comfortably in their first Asia Cup appearance in the United Arab Emirates despite the absence of skipper Virat Kohli who’s been rested for the series. They’ll go into this match as the favourites against a shaken up Hong Kong who were comprehensively outplayed by Pakistan in their tournament opener just recently.
They’ve been dealt possibly the hardest draw in this year’s Asia Cup fixture with both powerhouse International outfits Pakistan and India making up the rest of group A; it’s fair to say Hong Kong was never really given a real chance to advance to the super four stage of the tournament. Their lack of International exposure at this level was apparent in their first match against Pakistan where they were made to look like amateurs in front of the Dubai crowd. No. 3 Babar Hayat’s knock just about summed up Hong Kong’s ability to keep up with Pakistan as he got completely bogged down by the opposition bowlers and was eventually dismissed for a painful 7 runs off 29 deliveries. There was no way in the world Hong Kong could prevent the Pakistani bowlers from controlling the tempo of this game, they just simply couldn’t force the pressure back onto the likes of Hasan Ali, Usman Khan and Shadab Khan who are all elite International players in this format. Hong Kong might just have to focus on building small partnerships throughout their batting order if they are to give themselves any chance of challenging India, otherwise things could get ugly very quickly. 20-year-old Hong Kong captain Anshy Rath and his top order partner Babar Hayat have to be the two batsmen to show some fight against this Indian bowling attack, the pair are probably their most skilful individuals in terms of scoring ability. Nizakat Khan also provides some flair for them opening the batting, he just needs to value his wicket a bit more against a team like India. While the batting is a bit of a concern, Hong Kong are actually quite a handy bowling side. 33-year-old off-spinner Ehsan Khan has been in decent form leading up to the Asia Cup with a couple of four-wicket hauls against Nepal and the U.A.E. , so it came as no surprise to see him knock over two of Pakistan’s best batsmen in Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam in a low run chase. Fellow spinner Nadeem Ahmed is also a proven performer in one-day cricket, he has a quartet of four-wicket hauls in ODI cricket.
India will head into the 2018 Asia Cup without one of their biggest weapons across all three formats of the game, but at the same time it’s a huge opportunity for someone else to step up in Virat Kohli’s absence. India will be hoping to walk away with the two points tomorrow as they prepare to take on their rivals Pakistan in what should be an evenly-matched contest. Without Kohli in the side, India are likely to welcome back Ambati Rayudu who averages 50.23 in ODI cricket. It’s amazing to think that Rayudu was left out of the tour of England just recently, nevertheless he gets his opportunity to show his worth in Dubai. This decision isn’t as easy as it seems, both he and Manish Pandey had exceptional stints for India B in the quadrangular series late last month. Pandey strung together scores of 95*, 21*, 117* and 73* making a strong case to feature in India’s Asia Cup starting XI. Threatening to blow the game wide open from ball one, destructive opening duo Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan could potentially break some records if Hong Kong can’t manufacture an early wicket tomorrow. As dangerous as those two are against the new ball, something tells me Ambati Rayudu will be the headline act in a polished performance by the Indians. If they do elect to go with their strongest bowling formation consisting of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, Hong Kong will be lucky to last 25 overs. Jasprit Bumrah is easily India’s best fast bowler followed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar who’s deadly accurate at his best. Expect the spinners to join in if the wickets start to tumble, 23-year-old Kuldeep Yadav is fresh off a dominant stint in England where the slow left-armer picked up a career-best 6/25 at Nottingham in a ODI. It goes without saying that India should win this match comfortably, but knowing the professionalism of this team they’ll treat it like any other match and look to play their best cricket.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Hong Kong | Asia Cup | 4th match | Dubai
- Babar Hayat
- Anshuman Rath
- Ehsan Khan
- Nizakat Khan
- Nadeem Ahmed
Wildcard pick – Tanwir Afzal
Top 5 fantasy picks | India | Asia Cup | 4th match | Dubai
- Shikhar Dhawan
- Jasprit Bumrah
- Ambati Rayudu
- Kuldeep Yadav
- Rohit Sharma
Wildcard pick – Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Hong Kong (possible) – 1. Nizakat Khan 2. Anshuman Rath © 3. Babar Hayat 4. Christopher Carter 5. Kinchit Shah 6. Scott McKechnie (wk) 7. Aizaz Khan 8. Tanwir Afzal 9. Ehsan Khan 10. Ehsan Nawaz/Tanveer Ahmed 11. Nadeem Ahmed.
India (possible) – 1. Rohit Sharma © 2. Shikhar Dhawan 3. Ambati Rayudu 4. Dinesh Karthik/Manish Pandey 5. MS Dhoni (wk) 6. Kedar Jadhav 7. Hardik Pandya 8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9. Kuldeep Yadav 10. Yuzvendra Chahal 11. Jasprit Bumrah.