Indian faced off against Hong Kong at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium as they began their Asia Cup 2018 campaign. Hong Kong captain Anshuman Rath won the toss and chose to bowl.
Having been put into bat first, India lost their skipper Rohit Sharma early in the innings. Southpaw Shikhar Dhawan had a welcome outing against Hong Kong after a woeful time against the red cherry in England. Dhawan brought up his 14th century with a score of 127 as he became the seconded fastest Indian to do so, in 105 innings.
Ambati Rayudu, who was left out of the limited-overs squad against England after failing the yo-yo test, made the most of his opportunity as he scored a 70-ball 60. Together the duo stitched a 116 run partnership to put India into a comfortable position.
However, India’s middle order failed to capitalize the start provided by the top-order as wickets kept tumbling. India ended up setting a total of 286 for Hong Kong to chase.
Hong Kong had a dream start to the chase with openers Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath putting up a 174-run stand. With the loss of the openers, Hong Kong failed to cope up with the pressure to score quick. Debutant Khaleel Ahmed and spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal helped India seal a 26-run victory.
Let us take a look at some of the unnoticed things in what was supposed to be a low-key match but went down the wire:
#1 Hong Kong give India a scare
Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath’s opening partnership of 174 runs was marked by self-belief and fearless strokeplay. Apart from a positive approach, some erratic bowling by India helped them on their way. Indian bowlers were showed no respite as even some of the good balls were sent to the boundary ropes.
India breathed a sigh of relief when Anshuman on 73 was caught driving at short cover off Kuldeep Yadav. Nizakhat Khan missed out on a well fought century as he fell 8 runs short. He became Khaleel Ahmed’s first ever International scalp. With the openers back in the pavilion, rest of the batsmen succumbed to the scoreboard pressure and failed to put Hong Kong over the line.
#2 Ehsan Khan continues to pick bigwigs
After grabbing wickets of Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam against Pakistan, Ehsan Khan added two more to his tally as Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned out to be his recent victims. Rohit Sharma tried to up the ante of the innings as he tried to dismiss a ball into the crowds but ended up miscuing the shot. Dhoni too failed to open his account and was caught by the keeper.
#3 Contrasting performances by Khaleel Ahmed and Shardul Thakur
41 runs in 4 overs with 3 no-balls in an over is a recipe for disaster on any day against any team. Shardul Thakur had one such day as he failed to control his line and lengths and was taken to the cleaners.
On the other hand, debutant Khaleel Ahmed had a great start to his career as he picked 3 wickets for 48 runs. Khaleel not only provided vital breakthroughs in the middle but was also handed the task of bowling the death overs. Needless to say, Khaleel passed with flying colours.
#4 Dhoni scores a duck after two years
Mahendra Singh Dhoni started off his Asia Cup campaign on a bitter note as he scored a duck, 9th in his career. Dhoni’s struggles against spinners early on in the innings once again proved to be fatal as he feathered faint edge to the keeper.
An ecstatic Ehsan Khan kissed the pitch as he celebrated the wicket of the iconic players. Dhoni’s wicket added to India’s slump from 240/3 to 282/7 in 9 overs as India’s middle order failed to finish on a positive note.