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Asia Cup 2018: India on mind, Pakistan look for statement win against Hong Kong

The two teams have faced each other just two times in the past with Pakistan registering comfortable wins in 2004 and 2008 respectively.

cricket Updated: Sep 16, 2018 10:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Asia Cup,Asia Cup 2018,Pakistan
Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed (L) celebrates with Pakistan's Shadab Khan(AFP)

Before the much-anticipated clash against India on Wednesday, Sarfraz Ahmed’s team will look for a statement victory in their first match of the tournament when they take on minnows Hong Kong in their opening clash of the Asia Cup 201, at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.

The two teams have faced each other just two times in the past, with Pakistan registering comfortable wins in both the matches in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Same will be expected from the Champions Trophy 2017 winners when they take to the field against the lowest-ranked side in the competition.

Pakistan’s young side make them one of the strong contenders for the tournament and their team wears a similar look to that of the team which demolished India in the Champions Trophy final, last year.

Up the order, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq bring a brand of aggressive cricket that keeps bowlers’ guards up.

Bowling has rarely been a weakness for Pakistan, and it’s no different this time. Hasan Ali and Mohammad Amir are capable of swinging the ball at pace, and possess a good set of variations that could come in handy on the slower wickets of the United Arab Emirates.

Their middle order has appeared a tad shaky in recent times. Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed will have to take the onus and show how it’s done to the younger lot. Pakistan’s spinners – the likes of Shadab Khan, Malik and Haris Sohail – double up as more than handy batsmen, which gives the side increased depth.

Moreover, the team is bound to be better acclimatised to the conditions in the United Arab Emirates than any other team, considering that the Pakistan Cricket Board has hosted almost all their international matches since 2009 in that country.

While as for Hong Kong, they will be chasing their first ever win over the Asian giants, after failing to do so in the last two editions of the Asia Cup.

Seamer Aizaz Khan returned magnificent figures of 5/28 in the recent final of the qualifiers against the UAE, and alongside 23-year old Ehsan Nawaz and the experienced Tanwir Afzal, Hong Kong possess a strong pace unit.

The spinners offer variety to the bowling attack too. Left-arm tweaker Nadeem Ahmed is a hugely tricky customer with many variations, while 33-year old veteran Ehsan Khan has the experience and guile to strangle opposition batsmen. There is certainly no room for error given the heavyweight opposition.

Anshuman Rath and Babar Hayat both notched a century and a half-century each during the Asia Cup qualifying campaign, but the remainder of the side was mediocre with willow in hand, so these two premier batsmen will need to dig in against the best in the industry if they are not to expose their somewhat rickety batting line-up.

Squads:

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Amir, Shadab Khan, Imam ul Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi

Hong Kong: Anshuman Rath (c), Aizaz Khan, Arshad Mohammad, Babar Hayat, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan nawaz, Cameron McAuslan, Scott McKechnie, Nadeem Ahmed, Nizakat Khan, Kinchit Shah, Jhatavedh Subramanyan, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Khan

((With ICC inputs))

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 09:46 IST