With batting a concern for both sides, the bowlers could come to the fore on a pitch expected to assist pacemen.
The Netherlands v Hong Kong
Kwekwe Sports Club, Kwekwe
Thursday 15 March; 9:30 local time, 7:30 GMT
When the Netherlands faced Hong Kong in a warm-up game ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, they won by eight wickets on the DLS method. With much more at stake in their play-off encounter on Thursday, memories of that warm-up victory could provide a much-needed boost for the Dutch.
The Netherlands managed just the one victory in the group stage, against Papua New Guinea. They lost their remaining three fixtures against Ireland, United Arab Emirates and Windies, who topped Group A with four consecutive victories. With the next phase of the tournament almost underway, they will be hoping for a shift in fortunes.
For the most part, it’s their batting that has concerned the Netherlands. The openers have failed to build foundations, and the rest of the line-up has struggled to cope with the added responsibility that has brought about.
That said, there were welcome signs in their outing against Windies – Wesley Barresi and Ryan ten Doeschate both scored half-centuries in a 113-run stand for the fourth wicket, and during the course of that association, the Netherlands looked likely to pull off a daunting chase in a rain-truncated encounter. The chase eventually faltered, as they were behind the DLS mark when the match ended, but the return to form of Barresi and ten Doeschate provides the team something to build on.
Batting has been a concern for Hong Kong as well. They brought in Christopher Carter, the opener, in place of Aizaz Khan in their last group match against Nepal in a bid to address the concerns at the top, but even he failed to provide the start the team needed. Babar Hayat, the captain, has been out of form as well, meaning Anshuman Rath, who has been among the runs, will once again play a pivotal role in the middle-order.
Hong Kong’s bowling attack looks stronger of the two sides. Ehsan Khan, their frontline spinner, has been in tremendous form and has picked up 11 wickets in the group games, and the likes of Ehsan Nawaz and Tanwir Afzal, the pacemen, have shouldered their responsibility well so far.
Ehsan Khan (Hong Kong): The spinner is in a rich vein of form, and is the leading wicket-taker of the tournament so far with 11 wickets in four matches, including career-best figures of 4/33 against a strong Afghanistan side. He also picked three wickets against Scotland and two each against Zimbabwe and Nepal. The Netherlands will need to find a way to counter him.
Ryan ten Doeschate (The Netherlands): The right-hand batsman is one of the batting mainstays in the Netherlands middle-order. After registering scores of 21, 35 and 5 in his side’s first three group matches, ten Doeschate bounced back with an unbeaten 67 from 62 balls against Windies. If he carries the same momentum in the play-off matches, he could ensure the Netherlands finish the tournament on a high.
In the one match that has taken place at this venue so far in the tournament – a warm-up match between UAE and Nepal – the latter won by five wickets after chasing down UAE’s 171. The pacers found plenty going for them in that match, and the pitch is once again expected to assist them. The forecast looks promising as well, with no sign of rain.
Hong Kong: Babar Hayat (c), Ahsan Abbasi, Nadeem Ahmed, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Barkat, Chris Carter, Aizaz Khan, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Nizakat Khan, Scott McKechnie (wk), Anshuman Rath, Simandeep Singh, Shahid Wasif
The Netherlands: Peter Borren (c), Wesley Barresi (wk), Ben Cooper, Bas de Leede, Scott Edwards, Vivian Kingma, Fred Klaassen, Max O'Dowd, Pieter Seelaar, Shane Snater, Ryan ten Doeschate, Timm van der Gugten, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren, Sikander Zulfiqar