India and Pakistan are the favourites to move forward, but a hungry-for-success Hong Kong might be tough nuts to crack.
Teams and fixtures
16 September: Hong Kong v Pakistan, Dubai
18 September: Hong Kong v India, Dubai
19 September: India v Pakistan, Dubai
History in the tournament
India are the most successful team in the Asia Cup, having won six of the 13 editions of the tournament, including the only time it was played in the Twenty20 format, in 2016, making them the defending champions. They won the inaugural competition in 1984, and then in 1988, 1990-91, 1995 and 2010 before the last one.
Interestingly, they have a 50 per cent winning rate in the Asia Cup, having taken part in it only 12 times, bunking the 1986 edition in Sri Lanka because of political reasons.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have won the Asia Cup twice, the first time as late as 2000, when they beat Sri Lanka in the final in Dhaka, and then in 2012, again in Dhaka, when they beat the home side in the final.
UPDATE:— AsianCricketCouncil (@ACCMedia1) September 9, 2018
The International Cricket Council has granted ODI status for all matches involving Hong Kong in #AsiaCup2018
We thank the @ICC for their support. @BCCI @CricketHK @TheRealPCB @OfficialSLC @ACBofficials @BCBtigers pic.twitter.com/lKrbpb84L9
Hong Kong were a revelation in the qualifying tournament, and will hope to do better than in 2004 and 2008, when they lost all their group-stage matches to exit the competition early. In 2008, in fact, they were grouped with the two big teams like this time, and lost to Pakistan by 155 runs and to India by 256 runs.
Form guide (last 10 ODIs* – oldest to newest)
Hong Kong: L-W-W-L-W-W-L-W-L-L
Strengths and weaknesses
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s biggest reason for hope is their bowling, the fantastic mix of spinners and medium pacers who more often than not make up for the lapses of the batsmen. Tanwir Afzal, Aizaz Khan and Ehsan Nawaz are more than competent seamers, while Nadeem Ahmed and Ehsan Khan are excellent spin options. The batting is the weaker suit for Hong Kong, but in Anshuman Rath and Babar Hayat, they have two strong men who can take on the best bowlers on their day, but often lack support at the other end.
India: India are the highest-ranked of the teams competing at the Asia Cup, and are a strong all-round side, even in the absence of Virat Kohli. Rohit Sharma, of three double-centuries fame, is one of the best in the business and leads a strong batting line-up. On the tracks of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the wrist-spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should be a handful. There are few apparent chinks in the Indian armour, except that Kohli might be missed if it comes down to a tricky chase in a crucial fixture.
Pakistan: They are the holders of the ICC Champions Trophy title, and can blast teams away with bat or ball if it all goes to plan for them. With the bat, Fakhar Zaman is capable of turning a match on its head all on his own, and in Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed and others, there’s enough in the tank to back him up. Shadab Khan leads the spin department, while with Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, new boy Shaheen Afridi and their like in charge of the seam and swing, it’s difficult to spot holes in the ranks. Except that Pakistan are known to implode at times – always the main worry with the team.
Stars to watch
Hong Kong – Anshuman Rath: ‘Anshy’ is just 20, but has grown to becoming Hong Kong’s most dependable batsman. In 16 one-day internationals, he averages a remarkable 52.57, his 736 runs studded with a century and six half-centuries. Like many players in the levels off the top, Rath hasn’t played too much against the highest-ranked teams, but he has half-centuries against Test-playing nations like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, scored at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018. There’s class there all right.
India – Rohit Sharma: Kohli, the MRF Tyres No.1 ODI batsman in the world, isn’t around for the tournament, but the No.4 man, Sharma, is. Sharma is an outstanding short-format batsman, and averages close to 45 in 183 ODIs. He has the highest score ever in an ODI – 264, scored off 173 balls against Sri Lanka in Kolkata in 2014 – and boasts an incredible three double-centuries in the format, out of eight in all. If he gets going, as India will expect him to on conducive pitches in the UAE, oppositions beware.
Pakistan – Fakhar Zaman: He made his name during Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 win, starring in the final win over India with a 106-ball 114. More recently, he became the first Pakistani to score an ODI double-ton, 210* in 156 balls against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, and in between, he has done enough to firmly establish himself as a champion 50-over batsman, the man Pakistan now bank on to give them big starts.
Hong Kong: Anshuman Rath (c), Aizaz Khan, Arshad Mohammad, Babar Hayat, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan nawaz, Cameron McAuslan, Scott McKechnie, Nadeem Ahmed, Nizakat Khan, Kinchit Shah, Jhatavedh Subramanyan, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Khan
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Khaleel Ahmed, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Shardul Thakur
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari
*For Hong Kong, we've also included results in the Asia Cup qualifier, and List A results against non-ODI teams in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier
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