The Asia Cup continues in Dubai on Wednesday when the focus switches back to Group A for the clash between the favourites to win the tournament in India and the rank outsiders in the form of the qualifiers Hong Kong.
It is an achievement just to make it this far for Hong Kong. They can attack the two Group A matches with nothing to lose and while the pressure is on India here, they took a huge step towards the next stage when they beat Pakistan to open their tournament.
You certainly wouldn’t say it was a perfect performance in beating Pakistan for India though. To be fair to them that rivalry is so intense and means so much to those back home that sometimes it can be hard to put it to one side and concentrate on the action on the pitch. The main thing is that they were able to win and when you consider the chances of them losing this match are unlikely, they are as good as through to the next stage.
Whether that means they choose to try out a few combinations in this match or give the same XI another go will be interesting. There is a lot of cricket coming up beyond this tournament so the chance to rotate the bowlers at least will probably be welcomed. They all went well in the main against Pakistan anyway, it was the batters who looked like they needed the run. What India might do is shuffle their batting order around so those who didn’t spend much time in the middle against Pakistan do so here.
I don’t think too many people are expecting Hong Kong to be able to do much in this tournament but the one thing they have in their advantage is they have had three matches in these conditions at the qualifying competition under their belt. That means that they should carry a fair bit of confidence into the tournament with them, particularly as the three matches they won they did so with a fair bit in hand. If they can just be competitive at this stage of the tournament it will be to their credit.
I say it all the time when a minnow plays one of the bigger nations but if Hong Kong are going to be competitive then it is crucial that they bowl well. If they are off their game with the ball then they could go around the park and things could quickly unravel. The other thing they need to do is not lose a bunch of early wickets. The longer they can keep their batting order intact the better the chance they have of being competitive.
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India are expected to make a number of changes to their side for this match with them as good as through to the next stage. The likes of Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi and R Ashwin could come into the side and play a prominent role.
Clearly the resources of Hong Kong are nowhere near that of India so they don’t have the choice of rotating players, not that they would in a match of this magnitude anyway. They are likely to keep with the side which won the qualifiers.
I think we have to prepare for India to make changes to their side for this match. There is so much cricket for them on the horizon not just in this tournament but after it that when these opportunities come around they have to take advantage of that. It is also another chance for squad players to stake a claim for a place in the T20 World Cup squad in a few weeks. At the same time I don’t think we can approach this match expecting anything but an Indian win.
That leads me to going to one of the biggest priced side markets for this one where I’ll pay to see if the 5/1 on Ravi Bishnoi to be the top India bowler can come through for us. I regular say that the big difference between full members and associates is the top quality spin that the lesser sides don’t get to face and often get found out against as a result. Coming from Asia, Hong Kong might be better equipped to deal with it than some sides but Bishnoi isn’t a typical leg spinner. He’s foxed top class batters in the IPL for the past two seasons so I’m not convinced the Hong Kong players will get much joy against him.
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