Pakistan start off in a dominating fashion……..
The second encounter between Pakistan and Hong Kong in the Asia Cup turned out to be a one-way traffic as the former side won the game quite convincingly by eight wickets. Hong Kong posed no threat whatsoever against the formidable Pakistan side and suffered a tragic defeat. Pakistani bowlers ran through the Hong Kong batting line-up ferociously and gave a testament off their intimidating bowling attack. It wasn’t shocking to watch Hong Kong being folded for a paltry 116 against one of the top sides in ODI cricket; it was pretty much expected, but the fact that Pakistan did manage to deliver what was expected is confidence boosting.
For any champion side, a victory against an associate team like Hong Kong is always on the cards, but to inflict this kind of damage is a task. Pakistan are one of the favourites for the Asia Cup and a key reason behind it has been their deadly bowling attack. It is often said, a good batting attack will win you games, but a good bowling attack can win you tournaments and Pakistan’s magnificent return in last year’s ICC Champions Trophy corroborates the belief. Any team is heavily tested in the knock-out games, this is where the bowling comes into play. A side with a well-oiled bowling attack will always do well in crunch situations and Pakistan are fortunate to have been blessed with one.
Pakistan are a powerhouse when it comes to bowling; they have a fine aura of impactful bowlers. The likes of Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf and young sensation Shaheen Afridi render bowling a joy to behold. They have a good mixture of left-arm and right-hand pacers. Shadab Khan is another wonderful addition, who is well capable of leaving the opponent at sixes and sevens with his wily leg-spin.
Having said all that, it was time for performance against Hong Kong; Pakistan were put to field first. When Hong Kong opener Nizakat Khan squeezed 11 runs off the very first over from Amir, a competition looked on the cards. But it was only about time when their bowlers found a rhythm. Amir started hitting the right line and length to tighten the noose around Hong Kong. Soon after Shadab Khan effected the run-out of Nizakat Khan, Pakistani bowlers wasted no time whatsoever in chipping wickets. It was an all-round performance from Pakistani bowlers; they kept things tight and managed to chip wickets in clusters.
Skipper Anshuman Rath was undone by Faheem Ashraf while Carter was dismissed by Hasan Ali. Moments later, Shadab inflicted some serious damage by getting the better of Babar Hayat and Ehsan Khan in the same over. Just when a partnership was building and things were settling down for Hong Kong, Usman Khan cleaned up Aizaz Khan with a beauty. He didn’t stop there, Usman picked two more wickets in the same over to leave KD Shah helpless at the other end. Hasan Ali sent Shah back for 26 and the final wicket fell to a runout.
Pakistani batsmen showed good intensity with the bat and had no trouble in chasing down the modest total. The last time Pakistan won an Asia Cup was back in 2012; and one shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again this time. They made one the strongest comebacks in last year’s Champions Trophy and are well on course to achieve their third Asia Cup title. On paper, they are a well-balanced side and did well in their opening encounter. If they manage to continue their good run and perform consistently, there is no reason behind them not claiming the Asia Cup title.
Pakistan’s next assignment will be against India and this win against Hong Kong have given them the much-needed momentum. The encounter on Wednesday between the arch-rivals is easily the most-awaited one of the season. This Pakistani side is here for a fight and under the watchful captaincy of Sarfraz Ahmed, they have done well in the recent times. One can only afford to underestimate them at their own peril. With the World Cup being just around the corner, this tournament will help them polish this side for the grandest stage of ODI cricket.