ICC format overhaul weighs on ODI between Hong Kong and Netherlands
The World Cricket League clash takes place amid proposals for a new qualification system for the World Cup
Hong Kong’s one-day series against the Netherlands, which starts on Thursday, takes on greater meaning after the ICC’s recent announcement that the qualification process for the 50-over World Cup finals would be overhauled.
Cricket’s governing body last week said it would change the structure of global one-day cricket and introduce a 13-team league leading up to qualifying for the World Cup.
Although the proposed competition is only valid for the 2023 finals, Cricket Hong Kong’s director of cricket Charlie Burke said the two World Cricket League matches against the Netherlands takes on more importance.
“I’m not going to lie about it, the next two games are huge,” said Burke ahead of the first match at Tin Kwong Road. “The Netherlands is just above us and we are in third spot so destiny is in our own hands.
“Over the next six games, we play Netherlands, Nepal [at home] and Papua New Guinea but it all starts with the Netherlands and we definitely set out to finish in the top two of the table.”
Hong Kong are third in the WCL on 11 points, one point behind the Dutch and leaders PNG. Victory for either team in this series wold take them top of the table and closer to qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.
The top four teams will advance to the 2019 World Cup qualifiers in Bangladesh.
Hong Kong will be encouraged by their strong performance in the four-day Intercontinental Cup last week, when only a mammoth 288-partnership by the Dutch sixth-wicket pair prevented a home victory.
“We’ve improved out of sight over the past three months,” said Burke. “[Coach] Simon Cook has done an amazing job with the squad and with the leadership group in terms of where they’ve taken it. Guys are standing up and making selection genuinely tough.”
Burke cited the example of wicketkeeper-batsman Chris Carter, who in the past has only been able to play when the experienced former captain Jamie Atkinson has been absent.
However, strong recent performances means that Carter is difficult to leave out and both players must battle it out for their place in the team.
“We’ve shown that we are pretty hard to beat at home and also performed well overseas. We are still in a position to win the whole thing because out of our next six matches, four are at home,” said Burke.
“It was pleasing how well our guys competed against one of the most experienced teams in world cricket [the Dutch]. Their captain has probably played more first-class games than our whole squad.
“It’s not only the performance but how the guys have gone about it. They have prepared brilliantly and their attitude and commitment over the past week have been outstanding.
“They are very professional about it and there is a lot more maturity among the squad. A lot of credit goes to Simon.”
Hong Kong have played eight matches so far in the WCL, winning five, losing two with one match abandoned.
They are equal on points with fourth-placed Scotland, who have won four with one loss and three no-results.
Kenya, Nepal, Namibia and United Arab Emirates occupy the bottom four positions on the table. Associate members Ireland and Afghanistan are automatically in the Bangladesh qualifiers.