India survive a Hong Kong surprise in Dubai

Hong Kong had their moments throughout the game and seemed like they may pull off a fabulous win against men in blue. India led by Rohit Sharma in the absence of regular Skipper Virat Kohli happened to be in all sort of troubles and in the verge of losing their first match in Asia Cup 2018. After opting to bowl first, Hong Kong bowlers restricted the established Indian batting side to 285/7 in their 50 overs irrespective of Shikhar Dhawan’s -Player of the match performance -127 off 120 balls. Hong Kong managed only 259/8 in their chase as Indian bowlers took over control after a record opening partnership between Nizakat Khan and Captain Anshuman Rath. India did sweat to open their account in Asia cup campaign with a win by 26 runs.
Hong Kong had Indian captain who miscued a shot early in the innings for 23 runs caught by Nizakat Khan in the eighth over as soon as Anshuman introduced Eshan Khan as the first bowling change.  Dhawan played a patient game without taking too many risks but managed to move the scoreboard along with Rayudu. The pair added 116 runs for the second wicket before Rayudu fell for 60 runs. Dhawan had another excellent partnership of 79 runs with Dinesh Karthik. It seemed like India may manage anything around 350 with wickets in hand. Hong Kong struck with Dhawan’s wicket in 40th over which triggered a mini-collapse as MS Dhoni departed without scoring and rest of the batsmen didn’t add much to the total.  Hong Kong gave only 48 runs in the last ten overs picking up five wickets to restrict India under 300. KD Shaw was Hong Kong’s best bowler with three wickets for 39 runs in his nine overs.
Hong Kong openers started the chase perfectly as they added 56 runs in first ten overs.  Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath scored a record partnership of 174 in 34 overs to put them in a strong position in the chase. However, Kuldeep Yadav provided a much-needed breakthrough for India as Rath fell for a well composed 73.  Khaleel Ahmed struck in the next over trapping Nizakat in front of the wicket – his maiden international wicket. Nizakat was short of 8 runs for a well deserved century against a top-class team.  With two quick wickets falling, India sensed an opportunity to pick up more to turn the game their way. Kuldeep and Chahal managed to pick another four wickets adding more pressure to Hong Kong’s batsmen. Khaleel picked up two more to take his tally of wickets to three as Hong Kong’s chase fell short of 26 runs.
Hong Kong had a terrible game against Pakistan in the opening match. They returned as a much-determined team against India, displayed great fight with bat and ball and made India sweat for the victory in Dubai International Stadium. It seemed like they may chase down the target at one point when the openers were in full flow and can be proud of their effort and improvement even though it was their journey in Asia cup came to an end. They had utilized the opportunity to play against two top-class teams and must have learned a lot from the last two games. Let’s hope there will be a steep improvement in their game of cricket.
Meanwhile, India has few things to worry about too as they prepare of the big game against Pakistan. Two games in successive days will test the player’s fitness especially in the extreme weather conditions in Dubai. Rohit Sharma didn’t have a good outing in the first game and seemed out of his usual flow.  Middle order collapse is something to worry about and will make the management think about any changes. The bowling performance after the first game will also raise questions, but the return of Bumrah will add strength to it. More importantly, India has to sort out any of these issues they may have within no time as they get ready for the biggest rivalry game in cricket against the Neighbours.

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