Hong Kong captain Jamie Atkinson gears up for English county cricket
Hong Kong captain Jamie Atkinson is gearing up for November's ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers after being picked up by Warwickshire in the English County Championship.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Atkinson, 23, has been signed up by the English county for the tail end of the season and is playing in a four-day game against Surrey. Departing national coach Charlie Burke hailed his inclusion as a huge boost for the game.
"Playing on the English county scene will do Jamie a world of good and it is bound to help Hong Kong as we look forward to qualifying for next year's ICC World Twenty20," said Burke.
Atkinson is the first local to make the top grade in England since Dermot Reeve, who played for Sussex, Warwickshire and Somerset in the 1980s and '90s, as well as representing England.
"Jamie has been knocking on the door for a long time and I'm pleased he has been given the chance. It is the last few games of the season, but it is a time other counties are looking at players for next season and he has the opportunity to make an impression," said Burke, who will continue with Hong Kong until the World T20 qualifiers in Dubai before joining his new employers, the ICC.
Atkinson will join the rest of the squad preparing for the 16-team qualifying tournament in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the month. The selectors have named a 15-strong squad for a one-week tour of New South Wales from October 9-16 during which Hong Kong will play four T20 games and two 50-over matches against the state's second XI and Under-19 squads. Hong Kong are also preparing for next January's World Cup (50 overs) qualifiers in New Zealand.
"To have the opportunity to play against quality opposition on a similar surface and ground dimensions to what we will face at the ICC tournaments will go a long way to ensuring the team is as well prepared as possible for those huge events," Burke said.
The Atkinson-led squad comprises vice-captain Waqas Barkat, Irfan and Nadeem Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Skhawat Ali, Haseeb Amjad, Munir Dar, Babar Hayat, Mudassar Hussain, Aizaz Khan, Nizakat Khan, Roy Lamsam, and Adil Mehmood. Left-hand batsman Mark Chapman was included, but will not be able to tour as he will be facing final college exams in New Zealand.
"Mark [Chapman] unfortunately will be unavailable for this training tour, but he is confirmed for November's tournament. He has been playing regular cricket in New Zealand and it will be good to have him back and at number four in the batting order," Burke said.
Six spots are up for grabs in the 16-team ICC World T20 qualifiers.