Hong Kong Pakistan Asia Cup
Captains Nizakat Khan of Hong Kong and Babar Azam of Pakistan. Openers Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have been doing the bulk of scoring for Pakistan in recent times. Image Credit: Agencies

Pakistan need a win to qualify for the Super 4 phase of the DP World Asia Cup. Defeating Hong Kong at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday should be enough. That will happen, but it won’t be easy.

Hong Kong beat three Associate nations to qualify for the main draw. And they gave a good account of themselves against defending champions India. They kept the batting juggernaut in check for the first 10 overs before Suryakumar Yadav blew them away.

Time for Fakhar Zaman to rediscover form

Much of that was due to some excellent spells from spinners Ehsan Khan and Yasim Murtaza, who conceded only 53 runs in the eight overs between them. Seamer Ayush Shukla too was impressive with the new ball. They did restrain the scoring but never looked like taking wickets.

So for Pakistan, this is a good opportunity for the batsmen to run into form, especially Fakhar Zaman. His return to form will help Pakistan immensely at the business end of the tournament. Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah could also use some time in the middle.

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Despite the absence of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Pakistan still packs plenty of firepower, as evident from Naseem Shah’s fiery spells against India. Rauf Haris and Shahnawaz Dahani too can hurry the batsmen, with Mohammad Hasnain waiting in the wings. Spinners Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz were very effective against India.

Against such a quality attack, the Hong Kong batsmen will find the going difficult, although Babar Hayat and Kinchit Shah scored freely against an off-colour Indian attack. But at no stage did the Hong Kong batting look threatening. Yet they can be proud of having scored over 150. That may not happen against Pakistan, but the experience will stand Hong Kong — a side packed with part-timers — in good stead.