Hong Kong gave a good account of themselves at the ICC World Cricket League Championship. Now they are seeking to challenge more fancied opponents to grab one of the two qualification places for the 2019 Cricket World Cup and make their maiden appearance in the premier tournament.
Hong Kong won eight of their 14 matches at the World Cricket League Championship, giving them 18 points. Going into the final round of matches, they were in with a long shot of taking the top spot, but went on to finish a strong third to seal a place in the Qualifier. Anshuman Rath’s 143 in the final match against Papua New Guinea offered the final flourish to their campaign in that competition.
8 December – beat PNG by 93 runs in Dubai
6 December – beat PNG by 23 runs in Dubai
13 October – beat Nepal by 83 runs in Mong Kok
ICC CWCQ Group B
6 March – Scotland, Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo
8 March – Afghanistan, Bulawayo Athletic Club, Bulawayo
10 March – Zimbabwe, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
12 March – Nepal, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Squad: Babar Hayat (capt), Ahsan Abbasi, Nadeem Ahmed, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Barkat, Chris Carter (wk), Aizaz Khan, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Nizakat Khan, Scott McKechnie, Anshuman Rath, Simandeep Singh and Shahid Wasif
Hong Kong had strong individual performances in the World Cricket League Championship. Rath topped the runs chart with 678 runs from 10 matches at an average of 75.33, while Babar Hayat was third with 543 from 12 games at 49.36. Nadeem Ahmed, the left-arm spinner, was joint-first on the bowling records, with 24 wickets from 11 matches.
However, they will be missing Mark Chapman, who has gone on to make his debut for New Zealand.
“We have some really good players starting to dominate Associate cricket," says coach Simon Cook. "Anshuman Rath and Babar Hayat over the last 12 to 18 months have really stood out, Ehsan Khan and Nadeem Ahmed have performed very consistently and have been a major part of our successes. We have some exciting new players coming into the squad and I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do on the international stage."
Cricket World Cup history
Hong Kong, ICC Associate Members since 1969, have never made an appearance at the Cricket World Cup but they have turned out at the World Twenty20 on two occasions, in 2014 and 2016. Their victory over hosts Bangladesh in 2014 remains a highlight of their cricketing history.
The team just missed out on qualification for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, finishing third in the Qualifier held in New Zealand. They had three wins from five matches in the Super Six stage, ensuring ODI status until at least the next World Cup.
What needs to go right for Hong Kong to qualify?
Hong Kong will need to click as a unit in all facets of the game to push their case. Nerves have hit them in crucial games, such as against the Netherlands at home in 2017 when they had a chance to lead the WCL Championship table, so they will need to back their preparation on this stage.
“This is a tournament within a tournament, there are many different targets that each team will have at different stage," says Cook. "We are just keeping it simple and focusing on what we do best. We know that if we play to our potential we can have a good tournament."
Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, ranked No.10 and No.11 in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Team Rankings respectively, pose the toughest test. But Scotland too have traditionally performed well in the qualifying tournaments – they won last time – while Nepal are riding high on their heart-stopping showing in the recent ICC World Cricket League Division Two games. Hong Kong will target wins against the latter two, and hope to upset at least one of the Full Member sides.