UAE start as favourites for ACC trophy
The top sides in Asia outside of the Test arena gather in Malaysia for the highly anticipated ACC Trophy. While the UAE starts the event as strong favourites, having not lost a single match since 2000 in this tournament, they are likely to face some tough competition at the event.
Packed with talent and strong in batting, bowling and with a great desire to succeed, Afghanistan are rated by many as being the one team capable of defeating the UAE. Led by ‘Iceman’ spin-bowling allrounder Nowroz Mangal and backed up by the pace of Hamid Hassan and allround abilities of Mohammad Nabi, (who have both played for the MCC) it has quality in the right areas. Afghanistan’s success at the ICC World Cricket League Division Five in Jersey in May has also shown they can deal with the pressure of the big occasion.
Finding their way back into the top-flight of ACC competition after a period in the wilderness, Bahrain may not yet quite be back at their 2006 ACC Trophy best when they lost a close quarter-final to Nepal. That year they also won the ACC Middle East Cup beating Afghanistan in the Final. Many of those players from are back in 2008.
Fresh from the Asia Cup, where their spinners had Pakistan at 161 for 7 at one stage and also troubled India’s batsmen, Hong Kong are quietly confident of being able to reach the final for the second consecutive tournament. An excellent side with an optimal blend of youth and experience, they may be that their spinners who again do the job for them on Malaysian wickets.
Kuwait show flashes of absolute brilliance with bat and ball and in the field but are never quite able to sustain their form throughout a match let alone a tournament. Still, they can never be discounted and they plays an enterprising brand of cricket. The oldest player in the competition is in their squad, Javed Mohammed at 46, as well as the youngest, Saad Khalid at 17.
They have emerged from a period of rebuilding with a team which could seriously challenge for top honours in the tournament. Hardy perennials remain: offspinning allrounder Rohan Suppiah, opener Rakesh Madhavan, pace-bowling all-rounders Krishnamurthi and Suresh Navaratnam. They are bolstered by the rising talent of batsmen Darvin Muralitharan and ICC U/19 World Cup captain Ahmed Faiz as well as former Sri Lankan A international Priyankara Wickramasinghe. Wickramasinghe is a legspinning allrounder who qualified for Malaysia just last month.
A settled squad captained by Binod Das, filled with familiar faces, promises much as ever. There won’t be a better fielding side in the competition and the side will also be keen to make up for the disappointment of the ICC World Cricket League Division Five when it’s dream of qualification for the 2011 World Cup ended when it lost to Afghanistan in the semi-final. In Mahaboob Alam, who famously took ten wickets in Jersey earlier this year, they have one of the most dangerous bowlers at this level of cricket.
Batting talent in bundles in this side – from openers Omer Taj and Muhammad Jahangir to teen tyro Tamoor Sajjad and middle-order maulers Saleem Akhtar and Rusharat Ali. Qatar’s bowling is steady if not being penetrative and their fielding and general level of fitness have let them down in the past.
They set the 2006 ACC Trophy alight with some excellent power-hitting and it looks capable of doing the same again this year. Sarfraz Ahmed returns at number three and he goes in after one of the potential stars of the tournament, opener Hammad Saeed. Abid Naseem bats at No. 4 and will anchor the innings but it may just be their young left-arm spinner Ijaz Sagheer who wins them matches. He impresses on concrete back home and in Malaysia his flight, guile, loop and turn will be a handful.
Blending nationalised expatriates and home-grown talent, they have a squad full of talent. With a convincing win over Afghanistan at the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, Singapore is more than capable of winning the competition.
You look at this side’s batting: Saqib Ali, Arshad Ali, Amjad Ali Khurram Khan and you see hundreds of runs. Left-handed wicket-keeper/opener Amjad was the only batsman at the 2008 Asia Cup to play Ajantha Mendis with any confidence – off the 10 balls he received from Mendis, Amjad hit 16 runs - and he and his Lara-like backlift are likely to provide some of the tournament’s most remarkable sights. Pace bowler Zahid Shah was second only to Mendis in the Asia Cup and he is backed up by an excellent all-round attack with plenty of variety.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa