Hong Kong cricketers bask in spotlight Down Under as they prepare for T20 clash with Sydney Thunder

Country town of Orange expected to turn out in force in expectation of top-class showdown with visiting side

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 11:50pm

Hong Kong’s back-to-back T20 clashes with the Sydney Thunder are stirring great interest in the town of Orange in New South Wales – population 40,000 – with a crowd of 5,000 expected to turn up at Wade Park on Sunday.

Sports journalists Matthew Findlay and Nick McGrath, writing for local paper Central Western Daily, say: “Sunday’s Sydney Thunder and Hong Kong Twenty20 clash is arguably the biggest game of cricket Orange has played host to, dare we say it, ever.”

International cricket is a rare boon for the town around 250km west of Sydney and the Hong Kong players have been soaking up the attention as they prepare for two games against the Big Bash League champions, who are expected to be missing their star players Shane Watson, Pat Cummins and Usman Khawaja.

Cricket Hong Kong’s director of cricket Charlie Burke said: “The [media coverage] has been quite good, actually. The whole city of Orange, not just the media, are excited about the match and we are expecting about 5,000 people to turn up.

“It has generated a lot of interest and the players are excited to play against a top side. We had a great training session [on Sunday] and some high school students helped us out by bowling to our batsmen.

“It was quite a thrill for them to bowl to international cricketers. We have a function with the mayor at a local museum. The town has really welcomed us with open arms.”

Hong Kong will be without key players Mark Chapman, Anshuman Rath and Jamie Atkinson and Burke expects a tough match against

One of the main aims of the tour, which also includes a game against Sydney Sixers, is to give Hong Kong players a chance to stake their claim for places in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

“We will test ourselves against a top team and we are looking forward to that,” said Burke. “There are two matches one after the other with probably a 45-minute break so we will share it around and give everyone an opportunity and see how things go.

“It’s a huge opportunity for guys. We are without Chapman, Anshuman and Jamie so it gives three or four players the chance to step up.”

The Thunder have named academy players Scott Copperfield, Jay Lenton and Kerrod White in their 16-man squad for the two matches, with all players looking to make it into their final BBL pool.

Wicketkeeper Lenton was quoted as saying: “I know I’m going out there to do my best and back myself, play my kind of cricket. Being on this tour is just a great opportunity to learn more about T20 and cricket itself.”