India have opened their Asia Cup account after beating Hong Kong by 26 runs at The Dubai International Stadium. However the win was far from ideal and wasn’t without a slight scare.
Hong Kong captain Anshuman Rath won the toss and asked India to bat first. Indian management made a surprising team selection with Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed all getting a place in the playing eleven.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started the Indian innings with agression. Both the openers played some free flowing strokes. But before they could go on to build a big partnership, stand in captain Rohit Sharma was dismissed for 23 runs by Eshan Khan in the eighth over. Coming in the side for KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu knew he had to be impressive in order to retain his place in the team. And the right handed batsman was up to the task.
Dhawan and Rayudu both started to find runs easily against the Hong Kong bowlers. The duo added 116 runs for the second wicket before Rayudu went back to the pavilion for a well made 60. On the other end of the crease Dhawan continued the good work. The southpaw soon reached his 14th ODI century. After completing his century, Dhawan tried to up the ante. He struck two monstrous sixes. But his stay didn’t continue for long as he was finally dismissed for 127 from 120 balls.
In the following over India lost another wicket. This time it was MS Dhoni who was dismissed for a duck. And when Karthik too lost his wicket in quick succession, the Indian innings soon began to lose direction. The score at that time was 248-5 in 44 overs. Kedar Jadhav tried to steady the ship with Bhuvaneswar Kumar. But the duo couldn’t get quick runs. India lost two more wickets in the form of Bhuvaneswar Kumar and Shardul Thakur. They ended their innings with 285 runs on the board.
286 runs on a slow track for an inexperienced team like Hong Kong was always going to be a tough task and many believed that India can defend the score without many problems. But Hong Kong batsmen were not in a mood to give up without a fight like they did in their first match against Pakistan. Openers Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath played their hearts out to build a solid partnership for the first wicket. They added 174 runs and played 34 overs to give their side a chance to win the match. India finally managed to break their partnership when Kuldeep Yadav dismissed Rath for 73 runs.
Debutant Khaleel Ahmed got his first wicket in international cricket in the very next over. He took the wicket of Nizakat who scored 92 runs. Ahmed struck again. This time picking up Christopher Carter. And when Babar Hayat was picked by Chahal in the following over, Hong Kong dreams of an upset hit a low. The side was reduced to 199-4 in 40 overs. Kinchit Shah and Eshan Khan tried to keep up with the scoring rate. But the duo of Ahmed and Chahal sent them back home. Yadav picked up his second wicket when MS stumped Scott McKechnie. Chahal picked up Aizaz Khan as he was wrapped on the pads straight in front of the wickets. Hong Kong finished their innings with 259-8 in the scoreboard, thus falling behind the target by 26 runs.
H&K can still hold their heads up high despite the loss. The team surpassed many expectations by putting a brave show against the tournament favourites. Erstwhile India have a lot of things to sort out. The middle order failed once again. Pace bowler Shardul Thakur was disappointing with figures of 4-0-41-0. There is now even more pressure on Ravi Shastri to get the team selection right. If India are to win the Asia Cup, they know they can’t afford any more slip ups.
India: 285-7(50 o.)
Shikhar Dhawan: 127(120)
Ambati Rayudu: 60(70)
KD Shah: 9-0-39-4.
Hong Kong: 259-8(50 o.)
Nizakat Khan: 92(115)
Anshuman Rath: 73(97)
Yuzvendra Chahal: 10-0-46-3.
Man of The Match: Shikhar Dhawan.