Confident Hong Kong face tricky Oman opener in ACC Asia Cup T20 qualifier
Confidence is high as the squad aim to qualify for the finals
Hong Kong are among the top 10 in the region when it comes to Twenty20 cricket but the players know that rankings will count for nothing when they face Oman in their ACC Asia Cup qualifier in Bangladesh on Friday.
The tournament is so evenly matched that any of the four teams are capable of earning the one spot available in next week’s ACC Asia Cup, featuring India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Hong Kong were beaten in a series by Oman in November and also face strong Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates squads over four days.
But confidence is high, though coach Simon Cook said the players know that a single defeat in Fatullah near Dhaka would pile on the pressure.
“They are aware and more conscious now of turning up to tournaments such as these with more of an expectation of going through,” said Cook.
“As opposed to them going and having a nice time and whatever will be will be. We are more focused and more driven than I’ve ever seen them.
“But we are keeping a happy balance, not going over the top and still having the focus, drive and determination.”
The combination of strong opposition and nature of the T20 game means all teams will have to be on their toes from the first ball. Defeat would be a major blow but hope remains because teams are capable of beating each other on any given day.
The Hong Kong squad arrived in Bangladesh on Wednesday and on Thursday spent time tuning up in the gym.
Captain Tanwir Afzal said the players were buzzing ahead of their first game.
“We are very excited,” he said. “We have done well in the past few tournaments and we have a good chance in the Asia Cup.”
Hong Kong take on UAE on Sunday and Afghanistan on Monday in what could be the decider to see who goes through to the finals, which run from Wednesday to March 6.
Soon after the Asia Cup campaign, the Hong Kong team will prepare for the ICC T20 World Cup, which starts in India on March 8.
Hong Kong are in group B of the first round with Scotland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, with only winners after a round-robin advancing to the next phase.
If the first round is not difficult enough, the group B winners will join defending champions Sri Lanka, past winners England and West Indies, and Afghanistan in group A of the second round.