It has been a roller coaster year for Hong Kong cricket. They endured heartbreak by losing ODI status at the start of the year during the World Cup qualifiers but bounced back with a sparkling effort to clinch the only spot for the Asia Cup 2018. Now they are ready to face Pakistan in the second fixture of Asia Cup at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday, September 16. Both teams have played two ODI's against each other with Pakistan comprehensively leading the scoreline 2-0.
In their most recent clash back in 2008 Asia Cup, Pakistan scored 288/9 in their 50 overs after electing to bat first. They then wrapped up Hong Kong for just 133 in the 38th over to win the match by a whopping 155 runs.
Pakistan, unsurprisingly, are the obvious favourites to win this Asia Cup fixture and they will be eying this game as an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the conditions and gain momentum before taking on India. Sarfraz's side are coming into this tournament on the back of a 5-0 ODI series win against Zimbabwe and will aim to replicate it during the Asia Cup as well.
Batting: Fakhar Zaman is coming off a fantastic ODI series in Zimbabwe where he finished as the leading run-getter with 515 runs and is going to be the key man for his side. While Babar Azam averaged an impressive 184 in that series and is expected to score some runs up front.
Shoaib Malik is the most experienced batsman in this line-up and he is also among the leading run scorers in ODIs with 7,015 runs. Except these three, the team will also bank on the likes of skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and Imam-ul-Haq. Together, they form a formidable batting line-up and are expected to cause problems for the Hong Kong inexperienced bowling unit.
Bowling: Faheem Ashraf bagged the most wickets against Zimbabwe - 9 in 4 matches. While Hasan Ali has 68 wickets in 33 ODIs and he could trouble Hong Kong early on with the new ball. Mohammad Amir and Shadab Khan are the other big threats in Pakistan's bowling attack and are expected to cause problems for Hong Kong.
Expected Playing XI : Sarfraz Ahmed (C), Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf.
Hong Kong roared loudly in the Asia Cup Qualifier and winning the tournament would have given them a lot of confidence. They will now be coming into this match with high hopes and a belief that they can cause an upset. However, facing Pakistan would be a completely different challenge for them.
Batting: Hong Kong batting will rely mainly on Babar Hayat, Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan. Babar has scored the most runs for the team in ODIs (759 runs in 20 matches and has eight fifties to his name). Anshuman was their best batsman in the recent Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia with 209 runs and the skipper will be expected to lead from the front. Nizakat has the best ODI strike rate for Hong Kong. All three will look to take Hong Kong off to a brisk start.
Bowling: When it comes to bowling, the skipper will turn to the likes of Nadeem Ahmed, Ehsan Khan and Tanwir Afzal to apply pressure on the Pakistani batsmen. Left-arm spinner Nadeem is the team's leading wicket-taker in ODIs and he was their most successful bowler in the Asia Cup Qualifier with 14 wickets in 6 matches. Ehsan and Tanwir too did a good job in that tournament.
Expected Playing XI: Anshuman Rath (C), Babar Hayat, Kinchit Shah, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Aizaz Khan, Scott McKechnie, Tanwir Afzal, Ehsan Nawaz, Nadeem Ahmed and Nizakat Khan.Published 14 Sep 2018, 19:21 IST