By Anand Vasu in Chittagong
Only pride at stake for below-par Hong Kong
But once that slip was avoided – so emphatically that Shakib-al-Hasan suggested the banana peel had been tossed in the dustbin – the task at hand was to reaffirm its own strength. Nepal bore the brunt of this, with Bangladesh coming out on a mission to prove that it was going to dominate the lesser teams.
The most naked expression of this objective came in Bangladesh’s chase, when the scores were level. Shakib, having knocked Sagar Pun, the part-time offie, down the ground, refused the single. Off the next ball, the emotional and expressive Shakib freed his arms and tonked the bowler into the stands over the head of the long-on fielder. There was confidence, and there was a statement.
To be fair to Bangladesh, it has been in exactly the same shoes as these Associate teams not long ago, and believe it has outgrown them comprehensively. So, with the first box of ensuring they stay in the tournament all but ticked, Bangladesh now eyes something else entirely: a win against Hong Kong at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Thursday (March 20) to complete a hat-trick of wins and progression to the next round with confidence topped up.
Hong Kong comes into the match at the other end of the spectrum, on the back of two losses in which it has been far from convincing. By all accounts, it is a much better team than has been on evidence in the tournament. Those who have watched Hong Kong through the qualifiers insist that it is no more than stage fright that is holding a talented team back. On that count, it will face its biggest challenge and greatest opportunity against Bangladesh.
The crowd, which has been Hong Kong’s biggest enemy, will be louder than ever in the final game. Although the capacity of the ground is only 18000, the energy and full-throatedness of the Chittagonians will make it feel like there are twice that number in the stands. Hong Kong can either fret about this, or throw all caution to the wind and play fearlessly, as it has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Jamie Atkinson, Hong Kong’s captain who has experience playing for Durham University and Warwickshire in England, had no doubts about how he wanted his team to take things forward. “It’s the opportunity for Hong Kong to try and take their biggest scalp, it would be the biggest win in Hong Kong’s history, probably one of the biggest shocks in World Cups,” said Atkinson. “That’s what will be driving the team forward in the hope that we can beat Bangladesh and make history.”
Atkinson did not rule out making changes to his team in a bid to address the stutters at the top of the order. “I think we’ll regroup and look at the possibility of some changes, it’s been hard for the middle order, it’s always hard when you’re two down early on, which we have been in the last two games,” said Atkinson. “It definitely makes the game more difficult for yourselves. I think it’s something we’ve got to look at.”
If Hong Kong arrived at the tournament trying to prove that the Associate nations are closing the gap on the big boys, it knows that one last chance remains to make this case before they return to the grind. “After this tournament, we’ve got the Asian (ACC) Trophy, which is for the top ten Associates in Asia, so that’s another big tournament for us to get exposure against teams like Afghanistan, UAE and Nepal again,” said Atkinson. “We’ve got our ODI status as well now, so we’re hoping to get some more exposure against high-level teams. The only way that we’ll get better is if we keep having that exposure. It’s our first World T20 and we feel a bit disappointed with how we performed so we want to start again.”
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (capt, wk), Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Mahmudullah, Farhad Reza, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Sohag Gazi, Al-Amin Hossain, Shamsur Rahman.
Hong Kong: Jamie Atkinson (capt, wk), Waqas Barqat, Aizaz Khan, Babar Hayat, Mark Chapman, Ehsan Nawaz, Haseeb Amjad, Irfan Ahmed, Roy Lamsam, Munir Dar, Nadeem Ahmed, Najeeb Amar, Nizakat Khan, Kinchit Shah, Tanwir Afzal.