Hong Kong captain James Atkinson excited about pathway “to eventually try to play against a Test playing nation”
The four-day first-class Intercontinental Cup 2015-17, which is a pathway for Test cricket, kicks off at the Wanderers, Windhoek, when Namibia plays host to Hong Kong in the opening round action on Sunday, 10 May. Both the sides have confirmed their squads for this fixture.
The side that wins the round-robin league tournament will play the bottom-ranked Test team on the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings in the ICC Test Challenge in 2018.
Ireland will defend the title of the tournament, which also features former winner Afghanistan, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), 2004 champion Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This will be Namibia's sixth appearance in the competition with its best performance being runner-up in the 2007-08 edition. To date, it has played 27 matches, winning 14, losing nine and drawing three.
Namibia also participated in ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, but lost all six of its matches. In 2009 Namibia uniquely won the ICC Intercontinental Shield for the four teams placing seventh through 10th in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2009. Since the 2006-07 season, Namibia has participated in the second tier of South African first-class and list A cricket.
Led by Nicolaas Scholtz, the squad also includes veteran all-rounder Gerrie Snyman who has scored two double-centuries in the competition – both against Kenya – and his innings of 230 in the 2008 match at Sharjah came out of an all-out total of 282.
Looking ahead to the start of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2015-17 competition, Scholtz said: “We as Namibia are looking forward to hosting Hong Kong and to play good competitive cricket.
“It is the first time they will be playing in Namibia, and I truly believe they will enjoy our warm Namibian hospitality. We are well prepared and the guys have been putting in the hours and it’s truly appreciated and we will look to reap the fruits of this dedication. Best of luck to everyone.”
The first recorded game of cricket in Hong Kong took place in 1841 and Sunday’s game will mark its second appearance in the competition, after taking part 10 years ago in 2005. In that event, Hong Kong lost to the UAE and drew with Nepal, but failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
In ODI cricket, Hong Kong participated in the Asia Cup in 2004 (in Sri Lanka) and 2008 (in Pakistan). Hong Kong successfully qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 via the qualifier in the UAE the previous year and it memorably defeated host Bangladesh at Chittagong, but lost its other two matches to Afghanistan and Nepal.
Hong Kong will be led by former Warwickshire wicketkeeper Jamie Atkinson and has in its ranks a host of players, including promising 16-year-old all-rounder Waqas Khan, who have represented their sides at the Under-19 and senior levels.
Atkinson, looking ahead to the tournament opener, said: “The Intercontinental Cup gives Hong Kong a chance to play first-class cricket on a regular basis. It provides a pathway for the best team in the competition to eventually try to play against a Test playing nation at the end of the cycle.
“The squad is raring to go after a pre-tour in South Africa. Everyone has been working hard at training and in matches to best prepare for the upcoming game against Namibia. We’ll be aiming to make a good start to the both the ICC Intercontinental Cup as well as the one-day ICC World Cricket League Championship, with every result important to final standings.”
Namibia (from): Nicholas Scholtz (captain), Stephen Baard, Sarel Burger, Christopher Coombe, Michau du Preez, Gerhard Erasmus, Zane Green, Zhivago Groenewald, Robert Herridge, J.P Kotze (wicket keeper), Xander Pitchers, Bernard Scholtz, JJ Smit, Gerrie Snyman, Tiaan Snyman, Raymond van Schoor, Bredell Wessels, Picky ya France
Hong Kong (from): Jamie Atkinson (captain / wicket keeper), Tanwir Afzal, Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, Waqas Barkat, Babar Hayat, Mohammad Aizaz Khan, Waqas Khan, Roy Lamsam, Adil Mehmood, Nizakat Khan Mohammad, Ehsan Nawaz, Ali Skhawat
Match Referee: Dev Govindjee (South Africa)
Umpires: Andrew Wynand Louw and Adrian Holdstock
ICC Intercontinental Cup first round fixtures:
10-13 May – Namibia v Hong Kong, Wanderers, Windhoek
2-5 June – Ireland v UAE, Malahide
2-5 June – Scotland v Afghanistan, Stirling
16-19 June – Netherlands v Papua New Guinea, Amsterdam
ICC World Cricket League Championship first round fixtures:
15 May – Namibia v Hong Kong, Wanderers
17 May - Namibia v Hong Kong, Wanderers
22 June - Netherlands v Papua New Guinea, Amsterdam
24 June - Netherlands v Papua New Guinea, Amsterdam
25 June – Kenya v UAE, tbc
27 June – Kenya v UAE, tbc
25 July – Scotland v Nepal, tbc
27 July - Scotland v Nepal, tbc