Simon Cook called the tour a vital building block in the continued competitiveness of the side, which has held ODI and T20I status for less than two years
The Hong Kong men’s team returned home after its record-breaking three-week, multi-format tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today.
The side played ten matches against six international teams during its 24-day tour, including a Twenty20 match against Pakistan, a One-Day International game against England, and the critical second round clashes in the four-day, first-class ICC Intercontinental Cup (ICup) and the one-day World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) against the UAE.
The side lost its matches against the Full Members, but performed a clean sweep of the ICup and WCLC clashes, and in the process wrote its name into the record books.
Hong Kong’s convincing 276-run victory over the UAE in the ICup, which was one of only four Associate sides to compete in the ICC Cricket World Cup earlier this year, was its maiden first-class victory, with first Babar Hayat and then skipper Tanwir Afzal striking Hong Kong’s first-ever first-class centuries in dogged displays.
Hong Kong then launched itself into first place in the WCLC ladder with decisive victories in both WCLC ODIs, led by record-breaking batsmen Tanwir, Mark Chapman and Aizaz Khan.
In the first WCL match, Chapman struck an undefeated 116-ball 124, the second-highest ODI score ever made on debut. Not to be outshone, Tanwir scored 73 runs in the second ODI, reaching his half-century in only 24 balls, the equal third-fastest ever by an Associate player in ODI cricket. His 101-run eighth-wicket partnership with Aizaz was the highest stand for the eighth wicket in the competition.
With the ICC World Twenty20 2016 only three months away, Hong Kong completed its tour with a series of T20 Internationals, playing three against Oman and one against Afghanistan. The side defeated the higher-ranked Afghanistan by four wickets in a thrilling final-over effort in front of a thunderous crowd, and lost the three-match series against Oman 2-1.
Reflecting on the tour, Hong Kong coach Simon Cook was proud of his side’s ability to adapt to both the duration and multi-format nature of the tour: “It was a very long tour. It is probably the longest the guys have been away, and playing a consistent period of cricket, and also multi-format cricket. It’s pretty tough to take your skills and change format over a short period of time.
“Overall, I think it was a very positive trip, and actually a trip where we can look back and say, ‘have we made a step forward, have we improved in certain areas’, and I think that we can say that we have. But we need to keep looking forward. We can’t rest on our laurels.”
With a critical few months of cricket approaching, the tour was an important opportunity to develop plans and structures leading into the next round of the ICup and WCLC against Scotland, the Asia Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 2016.
“The primary function on the first part of this tour was ICup and WCLC, and to make sure that we secured those, which we did. And then, secondary to that, during this block of T20s at the end, it was about trying to work out where we are going to go with the Asia Cup and World T20 coming up,” said Cook.
“We’ll only have about four or five T20s before we actually get into the tournaments themselves. So although in calendar terms it’s quite a long time, actually in game-time terms there’s not very long at all.”
Cook believed the tour has been a vital building block in the continued competitiveness of the side, which has held ODI and T20I status for less than two years. “The tour is very important. There were a lot of firsts on this trip: a lot of debuts, a young guy, Chris Carter, coming in – with Jamie Atkinson not available for the whole trip, he was always going to play a huge part on the tour. To throw an 18 year old pretty much straight into international cricket is a big ask. It’s a huge learning curve, and I think that was probably the tip of the iceberg.
“We are looking at guys like him and Kinchit Shah and Ninad Shah as well, who has come on this trip but not played a game, those sort of guys we will be looking at in the next 12-to-18 months to try and secure a full-time place in the side, because that is what is going to make Hong Kong stronger going forward.”