With the group stage of the Asia Cup Qualifier over, group winners UAE and runners-up Hong Kong clash in the final on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur.
We look at the key talking points ahead of the crucial clash at Bandar Kinrara ground.
IT’S MORE THAN JUST A TROPHY
Just like any other final, the winners will get their hands on silverware but that sits a distant second on the list. Instead both sides have their sights on the bigger prize – qualification to the Asia Cup. It’s what they have been playing for over the last 10 days and with only one place available for the showpiece event which begins in the UAE on September 15, there’s plenty at stake. Whoever prevails on Thursday will take on Asia’s heavyweights Pakistan and India in Dubai on September 16 and 18 respectively.
The UAE will be aiming to make it successive qualifications to the Asia Cup and their fourth overall. Two years ago, they beat Hong Kong, Oman and Afghanistan in the 2016 edition in Bangladesh.
Hong Kong will be eyeing their third entry after featuring in the 2004 and 2008 editions.
MIDDLE-ORDER BATSMEN NEED TO STEP UP
Despite reaching the final with four wins out of five, the UAE’s middle order batsmen have yet to play to their potential. Rameez Shahzad, Shaiman Anwar and Mohammad Usman have become key batsmen for their country but struggled in Malaysia. Although veteran batsman Anwar has a half-century to his name, he has only managed single digits in his other three knocks, while Shahzad’s and Usman’s highest scores are 35 and 19 respectively.
It looks like it is only a blip because between them, the trio have amassed more than 2,000 runs in ODI cricket. UAE head coach Dougie Brown said every player will need to step up if they want to beat Hong Kong and it won’t be surprising if Usman, Shahzad and Anwar piled on the runs on Thursday.
“We need everybody to step up,” the 48-year-old said. “When we play our best cricket, we know how strong our middle-order batsmen we have. The likes of Rameez, Shaiman and Usman are world-class players on their day and we haven’t seen the best of them in this tournament. We want everyone to perform but sometimes that won’t happen. Who knows, all three of these players would love to be in front of the cameras and it’s a great opportunity to show what they’re capable of.”
CHANCE FOR REVENGE
The last time the two sides met was on September 1 when Hong Kong triumphed by 182 runs in the group stage. In the last five 50-over meetings since 2014, Hong Kong lead the head-to-head 3-2 with UAE’s last win coming in January 2017 after back-to-back defeats in November 2015. Although Brown admitted revenge will not be on their minds, the UAE know defeat is not an option.
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