Bumpy start to African adventure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's campaign at the ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament has got off to a bumpy start. The team had to endure some anxious moments en route to Tanzania after a radar malfunction forced the Emirates flight from Dubai to Dar es Salaam to make an emergency landing.

'We were informed by the pilot that there was some trouble with the radar and he had to land at some small airport about 90 minutes from Dar es Salaam. Everyone was a bit concerned but really there was nothing we could do. Thankfully it was all sorted out and we carried on,' said Hong Kong manager Jawad Ashraf.

A relieved team, led by Tabarak Dar, landed late on Friday night after a 26-hour journey which included a six-hour transit in Dubai. Coach Aftab Habib had the team shake off their jet lag with a training session on Saturday and they were due to play their first practice match against a club side yesterday.

'There were some unfortunate hiccups in our flight. But that wasn't under our control and happily there was no major drama,' Habib said. 'Now we must get on with the job of acclimatising.'

The six-team round-robin tournament - the other countries are Afghanistan, Fiji, Italy, Jersey and hosts Tanzania - will get under way on Saturday. The top two teams will advance into the ICC WCL division three.

The first training session gave Hong Kong good and bad news. The good news is that the wicket is slow and would perfectly suit Hong Kong's quartet of spinners spearheaded by left-armers Nadeem Ahmed and Najeeb Amar. The bad news is that it also keeps alarmingly low, a trait which will worry the batsmen.

'It is slow and low. So low that the ball was coming in as low as your ankles,' Habib said. 'But still, these wickets should suit us.'

While Habib has been to Africa before - Kenya and South Africa - to play cricket, for the rest of the squad it is a step into the unknown. Habib said the next few days will allow the team to settle in.

'It is a totally different environment to anything else. It is an interesting place but our focus will be totally on cricket. Our aim is to advance into the next group,' Habib added.

Hong Kong play Italy on Saturday.