Can Hong Kong beat anyone? Coach calls for focus ahead of ICC World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe
Man of the match against Afghanistan, Ehsan Khan, says his team fear no one but coach Simon Cook knows the next game is the most difficult so far
Hong Kong’s man of the match Ehsan Khan may have said “we can beat anyone” after their ICC World Cup qualifying victory over Afghanistan on Thursday but coach Simon Cook was quick to bring his players back to the realities of their next group B match – against hosts Zimbabwe on Saturday.
Ehsan played an important role with the ball, snaring a career-best four for 33 as Hong Kong beat the favoured Afghans by 30 runs, reviving their hopes of reaching the Super Six after their loss to Scotland on Tuesday.
However, they still need at least one win against test nation Zimbabwe or Nepal if they are to retain hopes of reaching the Super Six phase, from where two teams will qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.
“Ehsan is an excitable character and certainly wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Cook. “I don’t mind players believing they can beat anyone who is put in front of them, they are international cricketers and it is good to have that confidence.
“But they obviously need to apply themselves properly and do the best they can and then the results will speak for themselves.
“Ehsan was very excited when he said that and it came after a fantastic game for him,” said Cook, whose side restricted Afghanistan to 195 for nine in a rain-reduced 46 overs after scoring 241 or eight in 50 overs.
Zimbabwe have won two out of two in group B and will be strong favourites to make it three in a row and join Scotland at the top of the standings.
After two games at the Bulawayo Athletic Club, Hong Kong play their third fixture at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, which will offer different pitch conditions.
Spin was the key in their first two matches and Cook said the team for Zimbabwe will be decided after a training session on the Queens Club track.
“The challenge to the guys is to embrace what they face tomorrow and work with the coaches as to a method by which we can get the most success,” said Cook. “We’ll assess the wicket here, but don’t anticipate too many changes to the squad. Once we have a workout on the pitch, we will see if we need to make any personnel changes.”
Whatever the squad, skipper Babar Hayat said Ehsan and fellow spinner Nadeem Ahmed would be key to their bowling attack.
“The combination of Nadeem and Ehsan has performed well in the past. We’ve been working really hard for the last two years, and we’re capable of getting into the Super Six,” said Hayat. “If we can get 200-plus runs, we are confident that with our bowlers we can restrict them.”
While Hong Kong’s bowlers have been reliable, taking six wickets against Scotland while defending 91, it is the batsmen that need to show consistency.
Hayat, Anshuman Rath and opener Nizakat Khan performed their roles against Afghanistan and once again the middle order will need to provide strong support if Hong Kong are to succeed against Zimbabwe.
In the other group B match, Afghanistan will be hoping for their first victory of the tournament against Nepal.
In group A, Ireland take on West Indies in a match featuring two test-playing nations while the Netherlands face Papua New Guinea. The top three teams from each group advance to the Super Sixes.