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Hong Kong cricket coach Trent Johnston is talking up the importance of his team’s clash with Jersey. Photo: Twitter

Hong Kong’s high-stakes Jersey clash as big as World Cup, coach Trent Johnston says

  • Johnston hails ‘biggest game so far this tour’ as his side seek revenge over hosts Jersey in Challenge League B after comfortably seeing off Bermuda
  • The match could determine who will win the competition and move closer to securing ODI status
Hong Kong play Jersey on Wednesday in a Challenge League B encounter that coach Trent Johnston has said is “as important as playing in a World Cup”.

Victory for either side could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the whole competition, with just a point likely to separate the two at the top of the table by the time the game starts.

The team that ultimately win the league will be a step closer to securing ODI status, but Johnston is not worried about that distracting his players.

“It’s our biggest game so far this tour,” the coach said. “The boys know the importance of it, we don’t talk too much about it, we just take it a game at a time and hopefully they can put a performance in that they’re going to be proud of and we walk away with the two points.”

Aizaz Khan (left, alongside Hong Kong teammate Yasim Murtaza) has been backed to improve his accuracy with the ball. Photo: Cricket Hong Kong
Johnston’s side go into the clash having already beaten Kenya and Bermuda in their first two games of this round of matches, which is being held in Jersey.

And while the 51-run win in the first game and the comfortable 119-run thumping of Bermuda on Sunday were largely expected, there was cause for concern in elements of both victories.

On several occasions over the summer, the bowlers have rescued a poor batting display and too often Hong Kong have struggled to build an innings from the start.

Openers Nizakat Khan and Zeeshan Ali are averaging 21.81 and 14.20 respectively for the tournament, and neither has reached double figures in the past two games.

Johnston said it “would be nice” if the opening pair could give his side a start, and acknowledged it “has probably been one area where we’ve struggled throughout the tour”.

Fortunately, the likes of Kinchit Shah – who scored 139 of his side’s 311 runs against Bermuda – and Babar Hayat in the middle of the order have largely recovered the innings from any early wobbles.

There is no thought of changing the order, however, with Johnston confident that Ali “will come good over the next three games”, in which Hong Kong face Italy and Uganda after Jersey.

“We’ve got a bit left, and we’ll need that if we’re going to be competitive against Jersey,” Johnston said. “To post 300 [against Bermuda] was good. I think we probably left maybe 50 runs out there – that’s only me being critical.”

The coach is backing Aizaz Khan to improve on the bowling front, too, with the opening quick struggling with his accuracy.

Hong Kong have conceded 34 wides over the past two games, with 19 of those coming from Aizaz. There were 11 alone against Bermuda, including four in one 10-ball over.

“Aizaz is struggling a bit with a few extras, but he’s experienced and the bigger the game, the better he is,” Johnston said. “I’ve got full confidence in Aizaz, it’s nothing we need to worry about.”

But Hong Kong will know they cannot afford to give away runs against Jersey, who beat them by 55 runs in the previous round in Uganda in June.

Johnston said that although his side would need to perform better in the opening exchanges with the ball this time, that loss had made them a “better bowling team” and lessons had been learned.

“We have got better every day since that game,” Johnston said. “Our closing out of games has improved – even though we’ve been bowling a few extras, the way we’ve been bowling up front is better than we did there.”