Habib calls for top order to produce the goods

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2008, 12:00am

Aftab Habib has challenged his top order - batsmen as well as bowlers - to come up trumps with Hong Kong facing Afghanistan in the semi-finals of the ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur today.

The Hong Kong coach (pictured) is losing patience, especially with the batsmen, who have been guilty of throwing away their wickets cheaply. He has warned that there will be no second chances in this knockout stage of the competition.

'Our opening partnerships in both batting and bowling has not really produced so far. We have to start well with both the bat and ball if we are to beat Afghanistan. We need to play smart cricket and be disciplined,' Habib said.

For the second game in succession, against Singapore, Hong Kong had to rely on the middle- and lower-order batsmen to pull them through. A top-order collapse left Hong Kong reeling at 25 for four before Zain Abbas (80) and Skhawat Ali (83) had a match-winning partnership of 158.

'It was very pleasing to see two of the younger guys in the team shoulder the responsibility. They showed a lot of character and played with maturity to save us,' Habib said.

Hong Kong finished on 255 for nine, the second time they have passed the 250-mark in this tournament. They then bowled out Singapore for 162 - Najeeb Amar taking three wickets - to finish second in the group behind Nepal. The Nepalese will meet the United Arab Emirates in the other semi-final.

At the last ACC Trophy, Hong Kong defeated Afghanistan on the Duckworth-Lewis system to win their berth at the Asia Cup played last month. Habib does not want to rely on the rain today.

'Afghanistan are a team of big-hitters. They only know to play one way and this could work in our favour. If we can post a good score, we can put them under pressure. But we need the top order to fire,' Habib said.

He added: 'The good thing so far is that the team has gelled together and are playing confidently.'