ICC World Cricket League Division 3 - Darwin, Australia May 22, 2007

Hong Kong team departs for Darwin

The Hong Kong team departs later today for Darwin to contest the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament. There is plenty riding on the competition - a top two finish will ensure promotion to WCL Division Two with a tournament in Namibia in November 2007, while the bottom four-placed teams will be demoted to Division Four.

Hong Kong qualified for the ICC WCL Division Three tournament after finishing second at the 2006 ACC Trophy and they are ranked fourth in the eight team competition. The other teams, in ranking order, are Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Fiji, Cayman Islands, Italy, Tanzania and Argentina. Hong Kong's chances at the tournament improved dramatically when the top-ranked USA team were expelled from the ICC earlier in the year, with their place in the tournament being taken by Argentina.

Hong Kong head to Darwin with a new skipper and a new coach. Ilyas Gull takes over the reins as captain from the long serving Tim Smart and this will be his first major tournament in charge. Smart relinquished the captain's duties after accepting a new job opportunity that did not afford him the time required to commit to cricket. The team will be coached by Sameer Dighe who is filling in for Robin Singh after he accepted an assignment for the India team during their ongoing tour of Bangladesh. The 38-year old Dighe played 6 test matches and 23 ODIs as a wicket-keeper/batsman for India.

The Gull/Dighe combination came together for the first time on Hong Kong's pre-tournament tour to Chennai, where Hong Kong achieved a 2-2 win-loss record against local opposition. On that tour, they beat a fancied South Zone Under-18 Selection by four wickets in their final match.

The Hong Kong team for the WCL Division Three tournament has a number of changes to the side that achieved so much success at the 2006 ACC Trophy. Apart from the the withdrawal of Tim Smart, the other changes see Skhawat Ali come into the squad to replace the injured Tabarak Dar, while Mark Eames, Mark Kratzmann and Zain Abbas replace Alex French, Jawaid Iqbal and Amjid Mahmood respectively. The 41 year-old Kratzmann, a former world number one ranked junior tennis player who represented Australia in the Davis Cup, will be making his debut for Hong Kong. He is the current Hong Kong Cricketer of the Year.

Hong Kong starts its tour with a warm-up match against Italy on 24th May. The competition proper starts on 27th May when Hong Kong take on Uganda.

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