Premier League Preview
On the eve of the second HKCA Premier League many clubs would be thinking they have the players to take out the Championship, but none more so than last year's champions Hong Kong Cricket Club.
HKCC in only dropping two one day games last year against the Lightning X1 and Kowloon Cricket Club went on to win the overall competition by a healthy margin and proved they were the best club in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Cricket Club have a number of new faces that will defend their title from 2011-12, but majority of the runs will again have to come from Mark Wright (572 at an average over 110) and Courtney Kruger who lead the Cricket Club boys to the title and chipped in with nearly 300 runs at over 40. Andrew Nicholls is one player to watch who, if he gets going, will be among the leading run scorers while young left-handed Anshuman Rath showed his worth last season by picking up a spot in the National side and could be a surprise packet this year at the top of the order for HKCC.
Kowloon Cricket Club showed they can match it with HKCC as they beat them in the one day game but lost the all important two day fixture whilst the National Squad was on duty. KCC will be without classy all-rounder Peter Wooden but have gained the services of Imran Arif and Ryan Campbell who will both be big additions to the side that failed to score enough runs to really match it for the title. Jamie Atkinson fresh from leading the National Squad to the ICC World Cup T20 Qualifiers will captain the club and be a huge addition at number three and no doubt a prize wicket for opposition teams.
Veteran and former Hong Kong National player, Afzal Haider will again lead the attack with Imran Arif and will be the backbone of an attack missing a quality spinner at this level. Haider's 19 wickets at under 20 will need some others to chip in for a few hauls and Dylan Dearing to show some of the form we saw last year for them to be any threat for the title.
Pakistan Association have recruited heavily and gained the services of three National Squad players in the Ahmed brothers, Irfan and Nadeem, and Babar Hayat while retaining the services of Aizaz Khan, Tanwir Afzaal and Hussain Butt. The club has a well-balanced bowling attack and a very useful middle order that on paper should be a real threat to the Championship.
Pakistan Association will be a real threat to the competition if they can manage to bat the overs in the two day competition and when you add Najeeb Amar and Mudassar Hussain to the mix, they should be in the top two come the end of the season.
LSW have lost a few big names this year and will have a tough season ahead. A lot rides on Nizakat Khan and Amandeep Singh along with veterans Moner Dar and Tabarak Dar. I just don't see them getting enough runs nor having the quality of bowling to dismiss sides often enough, however I think they will be useful in the T20 competition later in the year.
The Lightning X1 wont participate in the 2-day matches but will be very competitive in the T20s and the one day matches as they were last year when they were the only team to beat the top two sides. They have some big hitters who can destroy any attack that doesn't have a plan. They also have some clever medium pacers that bowl to their field with good discipline.
My predictions for this season is again HKCC to take out the Premier League title in front of Pakistan Association followed closely behind by KCC and LSW. Big call, but Kowloon Cricket Club to win the one day title and HKCC the 2-day premiership while Pakistan Association will finish runners up in both.
Good luck for the season ahead and may the best team win
Charlie Burke National Coach