With their batsmen in fine form, Hong Kong will hope to get off to a winning start when they take on Malaysia in their opening pool match at the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup in Kathmandu today.
Two years ago, Hong Kong lost to Nepal in the opener in this competition but still made it to the final, where they were undone by Afghanistan. But Hong Kong will be hoping to go all the way this time around and coach Charlie Burke has stressed the importance of a good start to the campaign, which is the first step in the qualification process for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup next year.
"Winning the first game in a tournament is always important. Although last time we bounced back from losing our first game, it will be way better if we can notch a win against Malaysia," Burke said.
The top two sides (apart from Afghanistan who have already qualified) from the 10-team tournament in Kathmandu will advance to the World Cup qualifiers to be played in the United Arab Emirates in November.
Hong Kong have been honing their skills in Sri Lanka. "We played four warm-up games and won three. It was useful as we played in similar conditions to what we will face in Kathmandu. The wickets here too are slow and turners," Burke said.
Skipper Jamie Atkinson was in fine touch, scoring two 50s in the warm-up games while others like Irfan Ahmed and Nizakat Khan also looked in good nick. "We batted very well, especially at the top of the order but we have still got a lot of work to do in the bowling department," Burke added.
Hong Kong will play Malaysia, hosts Nepal, Maldives and Singapore in the preliminary round. The other pool comprises Afghanistan, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. The top two from each pool advance to the semi-finals.