Group A of the Asia Cup gets going in Dubai on Sunday when the Champions Trophy winners Pakistan will begin their quest to be top dogs on the continent when they play host to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong came through the qualifying event for this tournament so while they are expected to be out of their depth they perhaps shouldn’t be underestimated. India are the other side in this group so both sides will be wanting a win.
Mickey Arthur doesn’t take anything lightly as a coach and the signs are he hasn’t gone easy on this tournament either. He got his squad together quite early and put a training camp together ahead of this first game so if they don’t produce their best cricket it will have nothing to do with their preparation that is for sure.
Generally in this format the strength of this Pakistan side is with the ball and I don’t expect that to be any different in this tournament although their seamers might need to mix up their paces and their variety a little more than in some places. The success or otherwise though will boil down to whether their batting line up can be consistent or not.
One side bring winning momentum into this tournament with them and that is Hong Kong. They saw off some handy sides in the qualifying competition for this event and have definitely earned their place among the Asian elite. Their task now is to be competitive and not be here to make up the numbers or anything like that.
Similar to Pakistan, the worry for Hong Kong comes with the bat. They have lost their really big players to other nations and have not really been able to kick on from where they were four years ago as a result. If there is one comfort for them then it comes in the form of the wickets in the UAE suiting their bowling attack.
Pakistan will need to decide on the make up of their bowling attack. Usman Khan might get the final spot with Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali shoe ins to play. All eyes will be on Babar Azam to see what sort of form he is in.
Hong Kong will open the batting with their captain Anshy Rath but it is probably Babar Hayat who they will be looking for to take them to a total they can be competitive with. They are expected to be unchanged from the qualifying final.
Given the amount of matches Hong Kong had to win to make it this far they should not be written off or underestimated but at the same time there is a clear gulf in class here and we would be foolish not to recognise that.
Hong Kong will need to hope they get Pakistan on a rusty day but I just don’t see that happening. When the likes of Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Abbas can’t get a look in to this side we know Pakistan are going to be strong with the ball and they have enough in their top three to cover a big looking handicap but as we saw on Saturday is not an unachievable one.
WON – Back Pakistan (-7.5wickets/79.5 runs) to beat Hong Kong for a 4/10 stake at 1.73 with Bet365