Pakistan beat Hong Kong in the Asia Cup by 8 wickets – A Stroll in the Park
As expected, Pakistan had little trouble in winning its first match of the six-nation 2018 Asia Cup, against Hong Kong at Dubai.
Chasing a modest target of 117, shortly after Imam-ul-Haq had reached 50 off 69 balls, it crossed the finish line in 23.4 overs, for the loss of two wickets. Highly-ranked, Babar Azam, in his 33 off 36 balls, became the joint second fastest, in reaching 2000 runs in 45 ODI innings. A victory, both straight forward and comprehensive, but not an ideal preparation for the all-important game against India on 19th September.
Hong Kong 116 - 37.1 overs
Pakistan 120 - 2 (Imam ul-Haq 50*) - 23.4 overs
Result - Pakistan won by 8 wickets
Pakistan has not done that well in the 34-year history of the Asia Cup, a limited-overs tournament that has reverted back to the 50-over format, after its last edition in 2016, staged in Bangladesh, was decided by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) to be a T20 tournament. It can not look back to claim its superiority over their rivals in the sub-continent, as India (6) and Sri Lanka (5) have overwhelmingly dominated Asia Cup. Pakistan has only been crowned twice as Asia Cup winners, in 2000 when led by Moin Khan and in 2012 under Misbah-ul-Haq. The absence of Indian captain, Virat Kohli, who has been rested for 2018 edition and Sri Lanka, no longer the force it was, has made Pakistan team to start as strong tournament favourites.
The tournament originally scheduled to be staged in India had to be switched to United Arab Emirates (UAE). As quite often in the past, it is the political leadership of India, seem to dictate what happens between the two arch rivals of the Asian sub-continent, on the cricket field. The switch over to UAE was due to the fact that Pakistan players were not welcome in India and that a neutral venue was the only way out. It is hoped that change of Government in Pakistan, now led by Imran Khan, would go a long way in easing the tension between the two countries. The newly elected Chairman of PCB Ehsan Mani, too is the right man for the revival of India-Pakistan cricket with bilateral tours agreed between the cricket Boards.
In its opening match of the 2018 Asia Cup, Pakistan faced Hong Kong, a team made up of ex-pat from the sub-continent. It featured two Attock-born batsmen, opener Nizakat Khan and Babar Hayat and captain Anshuman Rath, only 20-years of age and averaging 50+ in the ODIs. Since their appearance in the 2008 Asia Cup held in Pakistan, Hong Kong, an Associate Member of ICC since 1969, has steadily grown though desperate for more experience of international cricket, to take further strides as an emerging cricketing nations.
Given the strength of its opponent, toss of the coin in its favour would have given Pakistan batsmen an opportunity to bat for 50 overs and pile up a huge total. Instead Hong Kong won the toss and opted to bat and found it real hard going against a strong and varied Pakistan bowling attack. After half the side, had been sent back to the pavilion by the 17th over and score having reached only 44, Hong Kong had little chance of pulling it back. Pakistan bowlers, with their tails up, had little trouble in dismissing Hong Kong for just 116 in 37.1 overs. Man of the Match, Usman Khan picked up three wickets, leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s figures of 2 for 31 off 8 overs, included double-wicket maiden, his opening over.
©Cricket World 2018