Cricket Hong Kong

Can Merlin cast a spell on Hong Kong as he comes in to provide hi-tech boost ahead of Ireland clash?

Simon Cook’s men train with Merlin machine at five-star facilities in Canterbury, England ahead of their series against the Irishmen, beginning on Tuesday

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 6:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 9:30am

The machine that helped past England batsmen deal with spin wizards Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan is preparing Hong Kong’s top order for their Ireland clash starting on Tuesday.

The Merlin machine can be tuned to replicate certain bowlers and Hong Kong are making full use of it as they enjoy five-star facilities in Canterbury, England ahead of their Ireland series.

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“We’ve used it mainly as a left arm around to imitate Ireland’s spinner George Dockrell and we can use it for our guys to practise against international quality spin bowling which is hard to get in the nets,” said Hong Kong coach Simon Cook.

Ireland face Hong Kong in a four-day Intercontinental Cup clash in Belfast from August 30 to September 2. They also play two Twenty20 matches in Bready on September 5 and 6.

The Hong Kong players are in United Kingdom early to acclimatise and make use of the kind of facilities that are limited at home. New captain, the big-hitting Babar Hayat, is among those making full use of the equipment at the Polo Farm Club.

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“The facility is outstanding here at the Polo Farm Club,” Cook said. “We have two new turf nets, indoor nets an entire field and a centre wicket for six hours a day.

“Primarily the aim is to get as much time on turf having had restricted preparations in Hong Kong.

“Babar has hit for four hours every day in a 1-to-1, which means he’s probably hit more balls in two days than in the entire month leading in.

“That volume means we can start properly working on things with technique and getting him 100 per cent ready to play”.

Cook said the camp will also serve as a final selection for the 14 players battling for 11 spots in the Intercontinental Cup, which is part of world governing body the ICC’s league for associate members vying for test-playing status.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been involved that we’ve been on tour with 14 players that are genuinely pushing for a spot in the starting side,” Cook said.

“In the past we’ve taken guys for development opportunities but now we can select from the whole 14 and pick according the conditions.”

Hong Kong’s four-day encounter against Ireland will be streamed live.