Pakistan gets an easy tune-up game against qualifiers Hong Kong as they open their quest to regain the Asia Cup cricket tournament in Dubai on Sunday.
Led admirably by Sarfraz Ahmed the young Pakistan team will aim to win the Continental event for the first time since they won the last of their two titles in Bangladesh in 2012. Pakistan’s other title came in 2000.
Despite Hong Kong being a non-ODI team, Sarfraz wasn’t ready to take it easy.
“It is correct that they are an inexperienced team but we will go at our full strength and aim a good win to start the event on a high,” said Sarfraz. “We know that its an important tournament so we will do our best to win it.”
After crossing the first easy hurdle Pakistan will face arch-rivals India in a high voltage clash in Dubai on Wednesday,m billed as the match of the 14th edition of the match.
The arch-rivals will again play in the Super Four — four teams qualifying from the first round — and possibly in September 28 final. Fans will hope they get three chances of watching arch-rivals play as tickets for the Wednesday match are already sold out.
Pakistan is used to of playing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi — the second venue which will host five of the 13 matches — as stifling heat will be a big factor in teams’ performances.
A full strength Pakistan team with strong batting and effective bowling will have not much difficulty to beat the minnows. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq are in good knock having created a world record opening stand of 304 in team’s 5-0 rout of Zimbabwe in July.
The opening pair is backed up by Babar Azam, Sarfraz, Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali while bowling is capable of bowling out any team with Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan Shinwari, Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan.
Sri Lanka, winner of the Asia Cup on five occasions, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in group B.
Hong Kong is led by a player of Indian origin Anshuman Rath who led the team admirably in the qualifying round held in Malaysia, beating the hosts of the main rounds UAE in the final.
Hong Kong is coached by former Indian paceman Venkatesh Prasad, who hoped his players will gain enough experience from the event.
“We are a team of semi-professional players, who migrated to in search of greener pastures. Their main aim would be to read their matches have now been accorded ODI status,” said Prasad.
“We have a good mix of spinners and pacers, batting wise we are also good, so we will do our best to be competitive,” said Prasad.
Hong Kong had featured in the 2004 and 2008 editions, where they failed to progress beyond the first round. Pakistan beat them by 173 runs on the back of hundreds from Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik, who also took four wickets in Colombo in 2004.
Younis Khan again struck a fifty as Pakistan beat Hong Kong in Karachi by 155 runs in 2008.