Hong Kong’s spin group could power them to a title challenge
One match won’t define the Hong Kong playing group in Nepal, though the spin bowling group has shown up to the party early to match their batting prowess.
Nizakat Khan’s men cruised to victory over Singapore at the Mulpani Ground, winning by eight wickets, though it was the spinners who ensured a first-up victory.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Yasim Murtaza (3/25) was brilliant with his angles, mixing up his pace and catching several opposition batters caught in two minds with their footwork.
Ehsan Khan was at his canny best with his lines, ending with 4/24, and Mohamad Ghazanfar (1/39) deservedly picked up a wicket to end the innings.
Malaysia should challenge in a tough group
They may have run out of steam at the TU ground against the hosts, though Malaysia showed enough with the bat to suggest they will push the rest of their group for a knockout spot.
Skipper Ahmad Faiz (76) looked in good touch until he was undone by a good Sandeep Lamichhane delivery, forming a century partnership with Virandeep Singh (46).
Crucially, Lalit Rajbanshi and Sompal Kami removed Vijay Unni (12) and Syed Aziz (13) early, turning the tide in favour of the tournament hosts.
Taking their first-up experience against possibly the tournament favourites, should the Malaysians be positioned at 100/1 or better, expect a more imposing total to be put on the board.
Malaysia’s meeting with Oman on April 23 is now a must-win, but weathering the new-ball storm from Bilal Khan looks realistic for a group adapt to see off a menacing threat.
Nepal’s batting once again answers questions
Any thought of a Nepali hangover period with the bat was quashed early in their chase of 236 against Malaysia.
Despite the early loss of Aasif Sheikh (1), Bhim Sharki showed maturity in his knock of 71 (91), holding together the innings with poise and measure. The 21-year-old has scored 281 runs in his last five ODI knocks at an average of 56.2, with a lowest score of just 29, a testament to his early consistency in Nepal colours.
Skipper Rohit Paudel made 42 from 43 balls to push things along with Sharki, and Kushal Malla’s 70* from 40 balls thundered the hosts to victory.
Providing this consistency continues, Nepal should enjoy a strong home campaign, also building nicely into a push at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
Who stands up for Singapore?
It was a day of little positives for Singapore, crumbling to 174 all out and all at see for the most part in the field, watching Babar Hayat race to 108* off just 94 deliveries.
Ramesh Kalimuthu nabbed the wicket of Anshy Rath in one bright moment, though Aritra Dutta’s side were second-best for most of the day. The skipper’s 49 (57) showed some respite, though the next top-scorer was the extras column (28), with no other player reaching 25.
Without Tim David for over a year now, and missing Amjad Mahboob and Aryaman Sunil, new heroes for Singapore must stand up.
The ACC know how to put up an event (and provide context)
Big ticks need to go to the Asian Cricket Council, with the first edition of the Premier Cup having all the makings of a bumper tournament, while holding together a bigger framework set to strengthen the game in the region.
Not only does the 10-team tournament decide the final qualifier for this year’s Asia Cup, it will also determine the three qualifying teams for the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, where the Premier Cup finalists and the winner of the third-place play-off will take on ‘A’ Teams of five Full Members in the region.
The tournament puts added emphasis on 50-over cricket for teams from Cricket World Cup League 2 teams all the way down to those budding to enter the Challenge Leagues, ensuring the longer white-ball format does not fall behind its in vogue T20 cousin.
With similar systems in place for both the women’s and youth international game, Asia and the ACC could make a case for being the most-organised region in terms of Associate growth.