India survive Hong Kong scare in 2018 Asia Cup

Shikhar Dhawan

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Opener Shikhar Dhawan and debutant Khaleel Ahmed saved the day for the Men in Blue against Hong Kong in their first outing in the Asia Cup 2018 in Dubai.

By Jawad Hussain

KARACHI, September 18, 2018 (News925.com) – Indian cricket team barely avoided an embarrassing defeat against the minnows Hong Kong in their opening match of the 2018 Asia Cup at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday night.

Hong Kong fancied their chances after restricting India to a moderate total in Dubai. Especially, when the whole world knew of the Indian batting might, the total of 7/285 looked way below par.

However, Hong Kong’s batsmen lacked the skills to overhaul the target. They even faltered against a toothless Indian bowling attack which also featured the debutant left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed. In fact, Khaleel Ahmed was the pick of the bowlers for India as he grabbed three-for in his first ODI appearance. With this defeat, Hong Kong’s journey in the 2018 Asia Cup came to an end. They have joined Sri Lanka in the teams who exit the tournament in the initial round.

Asia Cup: Shikhar Dhawan Saves the Day for India

Hong Kong’s skipper Ayushman Rath won the toss and decided to put India in to bat, especially recognizing the huge reputation of Indians being good run-chasers. His strategy seemed to work when Ehsan Khan got rid of Indian skipper Rohit Sharma (23 off 22 – 4 fours) early in the innings.

However, Shikhar Dhawan (127 off 120 – 15 fours, 2 sixes) and Ambati Rayudu (60 off 70 – 3 fours, 2 sixes) literally put a lid on any hopes of Hong Kong to get more scalps with the new ball. However, India’s run-rate was never promising enough right throughout the innings.

For the best part of the innings, the scoring rate hovered around the five runs per over-mark, which was a clear reflection of the discipline that Hong Kong’s bowlers exhibited. The Indian pair scored 116 runs for the second wicket partnership before Dhawan was joined by Dinesh Karthik (33 off 38 – 3 fours). The two added another 79 runs to the total when a sudden collapse hit the Indian innings.

India lost three wickets in the space of eight runs and 11 balls. Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Duck), and Dinesh Karthik all went back into the hut in the blink of an eye. With their dismissals, Indian hopes of putting up a sizable total perished completely. Kedar Jadhav (28* off 27 – 1 six) kept runs coming from one end but tail-enders continued losing their wickets from the other. In the end, India finished with a total of 7/285 from their 50 overs.

Kinchit Shah was the top bowler for Hong Kong as he finished with figures of 9-0-39-3. His spell of 54 balls included 23 dot balls, which proved his bowling discipline. Ehsan Khan took 2/65 but proved to be an expensive option. Nadeem Ahmed bowled a miser spell of 10-0-39-0, including 32 dot balls.

At halfway stage, no one was ready to give Hong Kong a chance of even batting out their full quota of 50 overs. The openers proved everyone wrong with a mighty effort. Nizakat Khan (92 off 115 – 12 fours, 1 six) and skipper Anshuman Rath (73 off 97 – 4 fours, 1 six) not only survived but scored valuable runs. They used up 34 overs of the innings to score 174 runs in the opening wicket partnership. Hong Kong needed another 112 runs from the last 16 overs at seven runs an over with nine wickets in hand.

Once Kuldeep Yadav broke the opening stand, Hong Kong lacked the depth in their batting line-up to overhaul the target. Their batsmen failed to maintain their presence at the crease and keep the scoreboard ticking. The consistent fall of wickets heightened the pressure on the middle and the lower middle order batsmen. Babar Hayat (18 off 20 – 1 four, 2 sixes), Christopher Carter (3 off 11), Kinchit Shah (17 off 15 – 1 six), and Ehsan Khan (22 off 25) somehow kept Hong Kong in the game.

However, the absence of a finisher in the lower order failed Hong Kong miserably as they could muster 8/259. This was evident by their scoring rate in the final 16 overs of the run-chase where they scored only 85 runs for the loss of eight wickets. Debutant Indian bowler Khaleel Ahmed (10-0-48-3) was instrumental with his line and length whereas Yuzwendra Chahal (10-0-46-3) and Kuldeep Yadav (10-2-42-2) were also among the wicket-takers. In fact, it was Indian spinners who changed the game in the middle overs when they dried up the flow of runs and put pressure on the Hong Kong’s middle order.

Shikhar Dhawan was named Player of the Match for his brilliant century. However, the overall show by the Indian cricket team in the absence of Virat Kohli raised eyebrows of many fans. In their next match of the 2018 Asia Cup, India will face off against arch-rivals Pakistan at the same venue on Wednesday.

 

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