Asia Cup 2018: India survive Hong Kong scare to beat them by 26 runs
Defending champions India somehow survived a scare eventually beating a spirited Hong Kong by 26-runs in their opening Group A encounter at the 2018 Asia Cup on Tuesday.
Set a 286-run target, the opening Hong Kong pair of Nizakat Khan (92) and skipper Anshuman Rath (73) set the tone stitching a mammoth 174-run partnership – the nation’s highest partnership ever – to take their side inches closer to a famous victory, before India woke up from their slumber to pull the strings back.
If their batting diminished any hopes of a dominating Indian victory, their bowling too deserves praise. Hong Kong gave away just 88 runs in their final 10 overs accounting for five wickets. This was at a time India powered by Shikhar Dhawan’s 14th ODI century, looked set for more than 300 runs on board.
But after letting loose in the middle overs, where India dominated with two big partnerships, starting with a 116-run partnership between Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu (60) followed by another 79-run stand between Dinesh Karthik and Dhawan, the associate cricketing nation bounced back.
A major upset looked on the cards in the way Rawat and Khan confidently played their respective innings, never for a moment looking doubtful about taking a shot or stepping out against the spinning duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
The Chinaman, however, had the final laugh when he dismissed Hong Kong captain Rath on 73 to bring the first breakthrough for India in the 35th over. A run later Nizakat was dismissed, becoming debutant Khaleel Ahmed’s first of the three wickets. He fell five-runs short from a maiden ODI century after being trapped plumb in front of the wicket. The wicket seemed to be the passage Indians were looking for and soon from 174 for the loss no wickets, Hong Kong were starring at a defeat.
They eventually managed to make 259 for eight after 50 overs, recording what will be their highest Asia Cup score against a top-ranked team.
Khaleel (48/3) and Chahak (46/3) finished with three wickets each, while Kuldeep took the other two. India’s most economical bowler was, however, part-timer Kedar Jadhav. Brought on after Rath and Khan smashed fast bowler Shardul Thakur and Bhuvneshwar out of the park, Jadhav not just slowed down the tempo but also built up the pressure from his end.
Earlier, Dhawan notched up his 14th ODI century – yet his first in seven months – to help India to a respectable total of 285. Send in to bat, Dhawan and captain Rohit Sharma kept the innings progressing with a solid 45 in the first seven overs. But Rohit fell to spinner Ehsan Khan in the eighth over, trying a glory shot too early.
Rayudu then joined Dhawan in the middle and the two stitched a 116-run partnership, to set India up for a big score on board. But Rayudu was dismissed for 60 and although the 32-year-old added another 79 with Dinesh Karthik (33), reaching his century in the 36th over, Runs never came in a flow.
The century will bring much relief to Dhawan’s heart as well as of the team management, who persisted with the southpaw despite continuous failures in both the ODI matches as well as the five-match Test series.
Dhawan was eventually out for 127 and his dismissal brought a mini-collapse in the Indian batting order, with run-a-ball 28 from Kedar Jadhav somehow scrapping his side to a respectable score.
MS Dhoni continued his poor form, getting out to another golden duck after lasting just three balls, while he was complemented by Thakur, who scored a similar score.
India takes on arch-rivals Pakistan in a high-octane match on Wednesday.
Image Source: Hindustan Times