Dubai: Debutant Khaleel Ahmed (3/43) saved India the blushes as they beat Hong Kong by 26 runs in their Asia Cup opener here Tuesday night. Chasing a 286-run victory target, Hong Kong were comfortably on course as the two openers, Nizakat Khan (92, 115b, 12×4, 1×6) and skipper Ansuman Rath (73, 97b, 4×4, 1×6) put on 174 runs for the first wicket.
Any other side would have coasted to victory from that position with just 112 runs needed from 15.5 overs. But then Hong Kong’s inexperience on the big stage became too apparent as batsmen after batsmen fell trying to go for big shots instead of rotating the strike. They finally ended on 259 for eight.
Nizakat and Rath’s 174-run stand was the associate nation’s highest partnership in ODI cricket.
This was after Shikhar Dhawan (127, 120b, 15×4, 2×6) found his mojo in familiar flat tracks with lack of movement, helping himself to his 14th ODI century.
India finally got the breakthrough in the 35th over when Kuldeep Yadav (2/42) struck. He beat Rath in the air and the gentle uppish drive was easily gobbled up by his counterpart Rohit Sharma at extra cover.
That was the trigger as Hong Kong lost the plot thereafter with another set batsman Nizakat departing in the next over, leg before to debutant pacer Ahmed.
The dismissals brought in two fresh batsmen at the crease and as expected it was never going to be easy for Hong Kong to get going immediately on the slow pitch and it turned out to be so.
Ahmed bowled a probing line to the Hong Kong batsmen. Bowling round the wicket, the left-arm pacer regularly clicked 140kmph and had the opposition playing and missing on a number of occasions. The required run rate increased to over nine runs per over and the game slowly, but surely turned India’s way.
Thereafter, the script penned out how India wanted as Yuzvendra Chahal (3/46), who looked ineffective early on, came to the party and picked up three wickets.
Earlier, together with comeback man Ambati Rayudu (60), Dhawan stitched 116 runs for the second wicket off 130 deliveries, to lay the foundation for India’s total after the early dismissal of skipper Rohit (23).
However, they couldn’t get past the 300-run mark as Hong Kong bowlers just conceded 47 runs in the last 10 overs. Off-spinner Kinchit Shah (3/39) was the best of the lot.
However, the performance of some of the bowlers and middle-order batsmen must have had Rohit worried with the game against Pakistan to follow Wednesday. Unless India raise their levels by a few notches, the young and exuberant Pak side have the ability to run away with the match.
Brief scores: India 285 for 7 (Shikhar Dhawan 127, Ambati Rayudu 60, Kinchit Shah 3/39) beat Hong Kong 259 for 8 (Nizakat Khan 92, Ansuman Rath 73, Khaleel Ahmed 3/43, Yuzvendra Chahal 3/46) by 26 runs.