Pakistan will take on Hong Kong in a Group A game in Sharjah on Friday for a place in the Super 4 round of the Asia Cup. Both teams lost their respective campaign openers, which makes this a virtual knockout.
Although Hong Kong lost its first match to India, there were a few positives. Hong Kong had kept India down to only 70 in the first 10 overs with Ehsan Khan and Yasim Murtaza, although wicketless, conceding less than seven runs per over.
Hong Kong’s death bowling is an issue, which was acknowledged by skipper Nizakat Khan. His bowlers leaked 58 runs in the last four overs.
Pakistan endured a similar shortcoming against India after its death bowlers Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf cramped up. Hasan Ali, who has replaced an injured Mohammad Wasim, did not play against India but could get a look-in against Hong Kong.
Hasan was earlier dropped from Pakistan’s squad for the ODI series in the Netherlands and for the Asia Cup after a poor run of form with the ball although skipper Babar Azam, on the eve of India v Pakistan, insisted that “Hasan was not dropped, he was rested.”
Batting in focus
Hong Kong batters put up a strong display in the PowerPlay against India, racking up 51 for the loss of two wickets.
But once the field spread, its scoring rate dipped. It needs to find a way to rotate strike with good running between the wickets.
Meanwhile, Pakistan could consider sending Mohammad Rizwan or Babar at No.3 position and open with Fakhar Zaman, especially if it is batting first.
The Babar-Rizwan opening combo was pivotal to Pakistan’s spirited run to the semis of last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE. But in the absence of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, Pakistan’s middle order wears a fragile look, and the early dismissal of either Babar or Rizwan puts pressure on the rest of the line-up. It was evident during the match against India.
The Sharjah track could be low and slow, with assistance for the spinners. The temperatures will be sweltering, and an evening match means dew could be a concern.