Hong Kong face Scotland in four-day clash – ready to move on from match-fixing controversy
Captain Tanwir Afzal says the players are keen to strengthen their four-day and one-day reputations against a strong visiting side at Mission Road
Hong Kong players are eager to put aside the Irfan Ahmed match-fixing controversy and focus on strengthening their status as a competitive Associate side when they face Scotland in all formats over the next 10 days.
Skipper Tanwir Afzal said the team have banded together since it was revealed last week that star all-rounder Ahmed was charged with failing to report an approach to fix matches and was provisionally suspended by world governing body, the ICC, pending a full investigation.
Ahmed has not played for the senior side since October because of personal issues and missed the recent tour to United Arab Emirates, where they swept the hosts in four-day and one-day games.
“I think we just want to carry on the momentum that we had in UAE and focus on our cricket. We were without him in UAE and we did well,” said Afzal on Wednesday at the Kowloon Cricket Club.
“We are all definitely shocked. This kind of thing hurts fans and the team. He is a good player and we only wish the best for him.
“The team is all together on this but if someone has done anything wrong we must condemn.”
Scotland, who are among the leading Associate cricket nations, face Hong Kong in a four-day Intercontinental Cup (I-Cup) match at a revamped Mission Road starting on Thursday before the two sides meet in a World Cricket League one-day international series.
The opening 50-over clash, on January 26, will be the first-ever ICC-sanctioned one-day match to be played in Hong Kong. The second match is on January 28 and the results wills have an impact on which Associate team qualify for the next ICC World Cup in 2019.
Hong Kong were beaten by Scotland in the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup qualify in Scotland and Ireland last year. Hong Kong coach Simon Cook is hoping local conditions will give them an advantage though wet weather that descended upon the city on Wednesday may make the Scottish players feel more at home.
Hong Kong coach Simon Cook said the main challenge would be the four-day I-Cup game, which is a rare extended outing for the local players.
“We are familiar with the Mission Road ground but we don’t know what the pitch will do after two days because we’ve never played more than two days on it,” said Cook.
“It’s not the first time we have played first-class cricket as a team but it’s always been away so to actually host a team in Hong Kong is a special event.
“The preparation has been a challenge with the weather, which mean there’s not as much outdoor training as we would have liked but there’s been some competitive league matches and the some of the guys have had decent practice there.
“By and large, we’ve made the best of what we have and should be in good shape for the first game.”
Scotland are expected to provide a stern challenge, boasting a number of first-class and former first-class players.
Visiting skipper Preston Mommsen said the team have been in Abu Dhabi preparing for the Hong Kong clashes, though they weren’t able to train yesterday because of the rain.
“Even though we didn’t train, we are fully prepared for this game,” he said. “Hong Kong are a dynamic team and it will be a difficult challenge for us.
“We know quite a bit about Hong Kong. They beat us a couple of times, we know they have batsman who can score hundreds and bowlers who can take five wickets.”
After the I-Cup and WCL matches, the two sides face each other in a two-match T20 series, with both teams using it as preparation for the World Cup.
Hong Kong - Tanwir Afzal (captain), Adil Mehmood, Aizaz Khan, Anshuman Rath, Babar Hayat, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Nawaz, Haseeb Amjad, Ishtiaq Muhammad, Kinchit Shah, Mark Chapman, Nadeem Ahmed, Ninad Shah,│Nizakat Khan, Waqas Barkat, Waqas Khan.
Scotland - Preston Mommsen (Captain), Alasdair Evans,│Bradley Wheal, Calum MacLeod, Con de Lange, George Munsey, Josh Davey, Kyle Coetzer, Mark Watt, Matt Machan, Matthew Cross,│Michael Leask, Richie Berrington, Rob Taylor, Safyaan Sharif