Men in Blue hot favourites to seal ‘Super 4’ berth

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As the action in Asia Cup 2022 continues, India take on Hong Kong in their final group stage match of the tournament at the Dubai International Stadium on Wednesday. High on confidence after defeating arch-rival Pakistan, the Men in Blue would be looking to seal their spot in the ‘Super 4’ stage as they go into the match against Hong Kong as hot favourites.

Incidentally, this will be the first encounter between India and Hong Kong in T20Is. India first locked horns with Hong Kong at the 2008 Asia Cup, which was played in a 50-over format, and the Men in Blue sealed a mammoth 256-run win. The previous encounter, at the 2018 Asia Cup, was more closely fought with India clinching the match by 26 runs. Hong Kong will mark their fourth appearance in the Asia Cup after 2004, 2008, and 2018.

The clash against Hong Kong provides a splendid opportunity for the Indian team to test their different gears before entering the final stages of the Asia Cup. The Indian top three – KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – largely struggled against Pakistan. While Rahul was sent packing for a golden duck, skipper Rohit played a sluggish knock of 12 runs off 18 deliveries.

After being dropped on zero, Virat Kohli rode his luck for a 34-ball 35. The Indians blushes were saved by Hardik Pandya (33) and Ravindra Jadeja (35), who dropped anchor and chased down 148 to save them from back-to-back defeats against the Babar Azam-led outfit.

Against Hong Kong, India would want their big three to fire on all cylinders. There can’t be a better opportunity to prepare themselves for yet another India-Pakistan encounter on Sunday.

India are likely to go unchanged against Hong Kong, persisting with Dinesh Karthik as the primary wicket-keeper and finisher ahead of Rishabh Pant, though the move did raise a few eyebrows. Moreover, the batting promotion of Ravindra Jadeja has nullified the lack of left-handers in the middle order.

The Indian pace battery was at its ruthless best as Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Co. scalped all 10 wickets against Pakistan, making it the first instance where the Indian quicks bagged all the wickets in a T20I match. However, India would want the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Jadeja to be among the wickets against Hong Kong in a bid to boost their confidence for the remainder of Asia Cup 2022.

For Hong Kong, all eyes will be on captain Nizakat Khan after an impressive round of performances in the Asia Cup qualifiers, where he scored 89 runs in three matches.

Besides Nizakat, all-rounder Yasim Murtaza is an exciting prospect to watch out for. Not only was he the highest run-scorer in Asia Cup qualifiers with 130 runs to his name, he also picked up wickets to cap off an impressive showing in the tournament. However, the most dangerous customer with the bat could be the 30-year-old Babar Hayat. While he managed 97 runs in three matches of Asia Cup qualifiers, his strike-rate of 127.60 in 30 T20Is makes him the most devastating batter from Hong Kong.

India (Probable XI): Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh.

Hong Kong (Probable XI): Yasim Murtaza, Nizakat Khan (captain), Babar Hayat, Kinchit Shah, Aizaz Khan, Scott McKechnie (wicket-keeper), Zeeshan Ali, Haroon Arshad, Ehsan Khan, Mohammad Ghazanfar, Ayush Shukla.

(Agencies)