Nepal take on old rivals Hong Kong at the Mission Road Cricket Ground Mong Kong, Hong Kong on Friday in their penultimate series in the ongoing World Cricket League Championship. Both teams are desperate for wins in the tournament to secure a place in the World Cup Qualifiers, but for Hong Kong, where promoting cricket has been a challenge, the stakes are higher. The International Cricket Council provides annual funding of more than US$1 million for WCL teams, plus about US$250,000 a year to cover the costs of hosting teams and travelling to away venues. If they finish outside the top four in the league, they would not get the same level of funding.
Nepal go into the match with a psychological edge over the islanders as the Rhinos defeated them by seven wickets in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in March 2017. But the advantage could be eroded by the fact that Hong Kong are playing at home in familiar conditions, and except for Nepali skipper Paras Khadka, veteran batsman Sharad Vesawkar, and leggie Sandeep Lamichhane, none of the players have played in Hong Kong so far.
Nepal and Hong Kong’s rivalry in recent times go back to November 2000 when HK defeated Nepal by a massive 179 runs in the semifinals of the ACC Trophy held in the UAE. Similarly, during the Inter-continental Cup 2005, Nepal played HK at home for one of the matches in the three-day-a-match tournament. Although Nepal dominated the proceedings, the rain-affected match ended in a draw. In 2014, Nepal defeated HK by seven wickets in the group stage match of the ACC Premier League riding on Paras Khadka’s 43* and a 4/34 by Sompal Kami.
Here we look at interesting ‘mini’ contests between key players from both sides that will determine the outcome of the game.
Anshuman Rath vs Sompal Kami
Hong Kong’s rising start Anshuman Rath has now been promoted to vice-captain. The 19-year-old left-hander opens the batting for his side. Hong Kong rely on him to get solid starts, and his wicket early on could provide Nepal the boost to restrict the home side to a small score. It would be up to Nepal’s strike bowler Sompal Kami to take his wicket early on. The contest between the two is worth the watch!
Nizakat Khan vs Paras Khadka
Leg-spinner Nizakat Khan is one of the most experienced campaigners in the side. Khan is a tough bowler to put away, especially in the middle overs. The contest between Nepal’s skipper Paras Khadka, who is likely to be at the crease in the middle overs, and Khan is going to be tough.
Nepal’s wicket keeper Binod Bhandari has been silent with the bat for some time. But he can hit spinners really hard. Spinner Eshan Khan, who has an economy rate of 3.95 runs at the moment, could be the bowler against whom Bhandari could get his form back. However, Khan could also trouble Bhandari.
Hong Kong skipper Babar Hayat has been playing for his squad for quite a while. Of all the players in the squad, he knows the best way to handle spin and that could be handy against Nepal’s ace spinners Basanta Regmi and Sandeep Lamichhane. The contest between Lamichhane and Hayat will be interesting.
Opening batsman Anshuman Rath also bowls and he has the lowest economy rate among the bowlers in the team. The left-arm orthodox bowler’s economy rate stands at 2.97 runs per over even after bowling 56.1 overs in his ODI career. The contest between Nepal’s Dipendra Singh Airee, who has made a ‘busy batsman’ reputation, could decide the fate of the match. While Airee would look to steal singles, Rath would try to dry up the singles.
In addition to this, Hong Kong’s answer to Sandeep Lamicchane, the 18-year-old Jathavedh Subramanyan could also get a chance to play for the squad. He is also likely to make his impact felt during the game.
Published on October 12th, Thursday, 2017 2:36 PM