Pakistan search for right combination
Tuesday June 24, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local time) 10.00 (GMT)
Big PictureEarlier this month, Pakistan bounced back from an embarrassing 140-run defeat against India to win the Kitply Cup but, despite that success, they are yet to find a settled team combination. Their first opponents in the Asia Cup - Hong Kong - shouldn't stretch them but they will want to use this match to fine tune their preparations for tougher contests against India and Sri Lanka. Pakistan have several new players - Saeed Ajmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mansoor Ajmad and Nasir Jamshed - in the squad for the Asia Cup and the fixture against Hong Kong is an opportunity to give some of them international exposure.
An unstable part of Pakistan's team - their opening combination - has become more uncertain with the dropping of Kamran Akmal, who has partnered Salman Butt in recent matches. Sarfraz, Akmal's replacement, is no opener and, though his batting skills may not match Akmal's, his role of lower-order batsman is secondary to his primary job of keeping wicket.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, will use this match against Pakistan, and the next against India, to get a feel of what it's like to mix with the big boys. They will use this platform as prep for their next tournament, the Asian Cricket Council Trophy, where they compete against opposition of more or less equal strength. Their last one-day internationals were in the 2004 Asia Cup, when they lost to Pakistan and Bangladesh by a margin of more than 100 runs.
Pakistan (most recent first) WLWWW
Hong Kong haven't played any ODIs since 2004.
Watch out for ...
Saeed Ajmal the 30-year old offspinner who took 38 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 29 in the 2007-08 first-class season. Pakistan missed a second spinner during the Kitply Cup and it is likely that Ajmal will fill that slot.
Nadeem Ahmed the Hong Kong left-arm spinner who made his ODI debut during the 2004 Asia Cup at the age of 16.
Akmal's absence leaves a vacancy at the top of the order and although Jamshed is the specialist opener in the squad, he may not get an opportunity in the interest of team balance. Pakistan may look to open with either Shahid Afridi or Shoaib Malik in order to play Ajmal as the second spinner.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Salman Butt, 2 Shahid Afridi, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shoaib Malik (capt), 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Rao Iftikhar Anjum, 11 Saeed Ajmal.
Hong Kong: Tabarak Dar (capt), Afzaal Haider, Ashish Gadhia, James Atkinson, Toby Brown, Hussain Butt, Irfan Ahmed, Courtney Kruger, Roy Lamsam, Munir Dar, Nadeem Ahmed, Najeeb Amar, Skhawat Ali, Waqas Barkat (wk), Zain Abbas.
Umpires: Tony Hill and Brian Jerling.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"We will take it match by match. First up is Hong Kong and we don't want any let ups in that match which we should win without any discomfort."
Malik is keen not to take Hong Kong lightly.
"Cricket is a funny game and we should remember there were lots of upsets in the 2007 World Cup so we must give it our best to upset Pakistan." Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib hopes his team can do what Ireland did in the Caribbean.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo