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.
The two nations meet in the Qualifier final at Kuala Lumpur’s Kinrara Oval (05:30am UAE start) where the winners can look forward to joining India and Pakistan in Group A of the showpiece event later this month.
It will be their second meeting in four days after Hong Kong triumphed by a convincing 182 runs on Saturday but Brown says his team is not seeking revenge.
“Tomorrow isn’t about revenge,” the 48-year-old said, whose side finished top of the six-team standings with eight points.
“We are facing a dangerous team and we know how well they played in the group stage. We know what is at stake tomorrow. If we get that right then we face the two biggest games that the UAE will play and more significantly in our own backyard.”
Hong Kong, who finished runners-up in the standings, are the only side the UAE failed to beat in the tournament which featured Nepal, Singapore, Oman and Malaysia.
Brown is wary of the threat posed by Hong Kong but knows if every UAE team members plays to potential, they will be hard to beat.
“Everyone knows what we’re playing for and we have to understand what we need to do as individuals,” he added. “If each person gets their own individual game right and have the right attitude that we showed throughout the whole tournament, then result should look after itself. There is a lot of cricket to be played until the end of the game.”
The UAE take on Hong Kong with a lot more than just the Asia Qualifier winning trophy on the line. Whoever prevails on Thursday at Malaysia’s Bandar Kinrara ground can look forward to rubbing shoulders with Pakistan and India in the main event, which will be held in the UAE later this month.
It will be the second time in a week the two nations will be meeting after Hong Kong triumphed by 182 runs on September 1.
Ahead of their rematch, we look back at the UAE’s previous 50-over meetings with Hong Kong since 2014.
SEPTEMBER 2018 – UAE LOST BY 182 RUNS
The UAE went into the game on the back of two convincing victories in the Asia Cup Qualifiers as they eased past Singapore and Nepal. But Dougie Brown’s side came unstuck against Hong Kong in their third group game. An imposing 276 was the target for the UAE as 20-year-old skipper Anshy Rath and Babar Hayat both scored centuries. The UAE never got going in their run-chase with number three batsman and captain Rohan Mustafa top-scoring with 33 as they were bowled out for 93.
JANUARY 2017 – WON BY SIX WICKETS
The last time the two countries met in an ODI and it was the UAE who came out on top. Playing at Dubai International Stadium in the tri-series tournament, Imran Haider stole the show taking four wickets as Hong Kong were shot out for 174. Shaiman Anwar’s half-century set the platform for the hosts as they reached their target with 11 overs to spare.
NOVEMBER 2015 – LOST BY 136 RUNS
Hong Kong overpowered UAE in the World Cricket League Championship in Dubai. Tanwir Afzal’s 73 and Rath’s 53 ensured a total of 282 after 50 overs. That total proved to be too much as Anwar’s 71 was one of only four double figure scores as UAE were all out for 146.
NOVEMBER 2015 – LOST BY 89 RUNS
In the first World Cricket League Championship clash at Dubai’s ICC Academy, the UAE were up against it when the tourists amassed 298-4. Mark Chapman, now representing New Zealand, made a perfect ODI debut as he hit 124. Anwar again impressed with the bat, hitting 76 and not for the first time his efforts went in vain as UAE were comprehensively beaten.
MAY 2014 – WON BY TWO WICKETS
The first ODI meeting between the two countries came in the same city as Thursday’s finale. Mohammad Shahzad took four wickets to bowl out Hong Kong for 157. What looked like a straight forward chase turned out to be anything but. Fayyez Ahmed’s 37 and Amjad Ali’s 39 clinched a tense two wicket victory.