HK face hard choices in key game against Danes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong face some hard choices before today's crucial do-or-die game against Denmark at the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament but coach Charlie Burke has ruled out using a pinch-hitter to get the innings off to a flyer.

Both of Hong Kong's innings in the two losses against the United States and Oman got off to solid but slow starts, raising the question whether a change in tactics is necessary for the must-win game against the Danes at Mission Road.

Burke said a pinch-hitter would not be used and he would keep faith with Roy Lamsam and Courtney Kruger to set the foundation for a later charge by the other batsmen.

'That [pinch-hitter] is not really our style,' he said. 'We got plenty of guys who can do that later on. Going in with a bang is not our strength and we will continue to [bat] the way we have.'

With two bowling powerplays - the mandatory first 10 overs followed by a further five which the team have the option when to utilise - resulting in fielding restrictions, most sides have opted for opening the innings with a batsman who can go over the top and collect the boundaries.

In contrast, Hong Kong have chosen the sedate approach. Against the US, they finished the two bowling powerplays - 15 overs - on 50 for two, while against Oman, it was 58 for one. On both occasions, Hong Kong ended with below-par totals of 256 and 266, easily overhauled by the opposition.

Oman underscored the importance of starting with a batsman who had been given free licence to hit - Hemin Desai, who hammered 62 off 30 balls including nine fours and three sixes - and they raced to 70 off the first seven overs against Hong Kong. This took the pressure off the later batsmen.

With the pressure on to win each of the three remaining games, perhaps Hong Kong should look at this option, especially if they are chasing a total. With the new ball hard and coming on to the bat, scoring is easier in the opening 10 or 15 overs. As the ball gets old and soft, it becomes harder.

A player like skipper Najeeb Amar or Irfan Ahmed going in at the top of the order might be the recipe to rejuvenate Hong Kong's flagging campaign. One more loss will end their hopes of making it to the final and booking a berth in Division Two.

Burke also faces a hard choice in deciding whether Nizakat Khan, Munir Dar or Adil Mehmood should play. All qualify under the four-year residency rule but only two can play at any one time.

Khan and Dar played against Oman but Mehmood, a lanky medium-fast bowler, may get to play against Denmark.

Whatever the choices, Hong Kong have their backs against the wall.