Winless in T20Is in 2022 so far and under pressure after their defeat to India in their Asia Cup opener, Pakistan will still go in as hot favourites when they take on Hong Kong in their bid to avoid first-round exit in Sharjah on Friday (September 2).
Pakistan were let down by their batting against India, the rivals deploying the short-ball ploy to topple the top and middle-order and restrict them to just 147. Once the Mohammad Rizwan threat was negated – he has the tendency to explode in the slog-overs, going at SR of 211.39 since 2021 – Pakistan couldn’t recover.
In part, that boils down to their relatively under-tested middle-order that has faced only 26% of the deliveries since the start of 2021 in comparison to their in-form top-three, who’ve done the bulk of scoring (69%).
The onus would, therefore, again be on the middle-order to step up in the hour of need. And the prospect of toying with the bowlers at Sharjah – notorious for its small boundaries – should inspire a lot of confidence in this must-win contest.
That’s true for Hong Kong too, who did offer a glimpse of the threat they can pose. India were only going at about 7 an over before the whirlwind knock from Suryakumar Yadav proved the game-changer in setting Hong Kong a daunting target. In reply, their batting didn’t make it look like a one-sided contest either, as the expectations may have been from the apparent mismatch on paper. Pakistan, too, would be counting on it.
When: Friday, September 2 at 2 PM GMT | 6 PM local
Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
What to expect: Another hot and humid day in store. Chasing has proven successful across venues in the UAE with India being the only side to have defended a total this Asia Cup, incidentally against Hong Kong.
Injury/Unavailability: Naseem Shah looked visibly in pain completing the second half of his final over in India’s chase. In case Pakistan decide to not risk him, Mohammad Hasnain will likely get a look in.
Tactics and match-ups:With the Asia Cup pitches as they are, runs against the hard new ball become important. And when it comes to setting targets in the UAE, the runs at the top are twice as valuable. Since 2021, Babar Azam strikes at only 113 inside the PowerPlay. Rizwan at 123 fares only slightly better. Hong Kong will want to exploit this further.
Probable XI: Babar Azam (C), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah/Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Rauf, Shahnawaz Dahani
Injury/Unavailability: After giving a good account of themselves in their maiden T20I appearance against India, Hong Kong could go in unchanged for the do-or-die clash barring a last-minute injury.
Tactics and match-ups: Against India, Hong Kong’s spinners (1-72 in 10 overs) outbowled their pace counterparts (1-119 in 10 overs), so we can expect the likes of Ehsan Khan and Yasim Murtaza to bowl at where Pakistan’s strength lies, which is at the top. Hong Kong’s pacers could be a soft target for Pakistan’s batters, having leaked runs at an economy of almost 10 in Asia Cup (including qualifiers) as compared to spin that’s gone at only 6.42.
Probable XI: Nizakat Khan (C), Yasim Murtaza, Babar Hayat, Kinchit Shah, Aizaz Khan, Zeeshan Ali, Scott McKechnie (wk), Haroon Arshad, Ehsan Khan, Mohammad Ghazanfar, Ayush Shukla
Did you know?
- There are at least five Pakistan-born players in the Hong Kong squad
- Naseem Shah has picked 21 wickets in his 14 T20s this year, with a best of 5 for 20, but has conceded runs at 8.14. He was the leading wicket taker for Quetta Gladiators in PSL 2022
What they said
“We’ll have a look at our death bowling. We will improve.” – Nizakat Khan
Pakistan Squad: Mohammad Rizwan(w), Babar Azam(c), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, Haider Ali
Hong Kong Squad: Nizakat Khan(c), Yasim Murtaza, Babar Hayat, Kinchit Shah, Aizaz Khan, Zeeshan Ali, Scott McKechnie(w), Haroon Arshad, Ehsan Khan, Ayush Shukla, Mohammad Ghazanfar, Wajid Shah, Aftab Hussain, Dhananjay Rao, Mohammad Waheed, Ahan Trivedi, Ateeq Iqbal