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The Asia Cup returns to UAE after a long interval of 23 years. UAE has been a breeding ground for Pakistan and no other team knows the conditions of Emirates better than Pakistan. It's been their second home with most of their Cricket played here. They are set to take on Hong Kong in their first Asia Cup encounter at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on 16 September. Up against them will be newcomers Hong Kong who bounced back with a terrific performance to take the only spot available for this tournament after losing ODI status during ICC World Cup qualifiers. Although Pakistan swatted them comprehensively by 155 runs in their most-recent encounter which was way back in 2008 Asia Cup, they are not a team to be taken lightly.
Perhaps after a very long time, Pakistan are starting as favorites to win a tournament. They are already familiar with the conditions at UAE and a game against Hong Kong will allow them to get further acquainted with the weather and the surface. Captained by Sarfaraz Khan, Pakistan are coming into the tournament on the back of a flawless 5-0 series win against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe and will be looking to carry on with the momentum.
Much of the credit of their success goes to their fearless opening batsman, Fakhar Zaman. After impressing one and all in the Champions Trophy final where Pakistan defeated India, Zaman hasn't looked back. He finished as the leading run scorer in Zimbabwe, scoring a total of 515 runs in five matches. Babar Azam, too, was impressive and averaged 184 in that series.
With the likes of Shoaib Malik, their most experienced batsman, and Sarfaraz Khan to follow, this Pakistan batting lineup is reliable and bats deep. With an excellent amalgamation of youth and experience, they form a formidable lineup which will to tough to deal for the inexperienced Hong Kong bowlers.
Pakistan is a side which has never been short on bowling talent. From spinner to quick bowlers, they've always had an abundance of match-winners, as far as bowling is concerned. Faheem Ashraf was the wrecker-in-chief for them against Zimbabwe as he picked nine scalps in four matches. Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali are likely to be sure starters for them alongside Faheem Ashraf. Shadab Khan will head the department of spin which could be handy on a dry Dubai surface. That's not all, they have their bases covered in case someone gets injured with the likes of Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi available. With consistent batting lineup coupled with aggressive bowling attack, Pakistan will be a team to watch out in this Asia Cup.
F Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan.
Hong Kong were left heartbroken when they lost their ODI status earlier in the year when they lost the ODI status. Although they are the least likely team to get through to the next round, they'll still come into this match full of confidence and they head held high.
Their batting will mainly depend on the experienced trio of skipper Anshuman Rath, Nizakat Khan, and Babar Hayat. Hayat is the top-most run scorer for the team in ODIs and has 759 runs in 20 matches to his name. Skipper Rath did exceedingly well in the Asia Cup qualifiers and will be looking to extend his form in the main event as well.
Despite being relatively unknown to the world, their inexperienced bowling attack is full of talent. Left-arm spinner Nadeem is their most experienced bowler and picked up 14 wickets in 6 games at World Cup qualifiers in Malaysia. Tanwir Afzal, Ehsan Nawaz, and Aizaz Khan also did well for them leading up to this tournament. Overall, they're a gritty bowling unit which tries to keep them tied down and thrive on the lapses of the batsmen.
Nizakat Khan, Anshuman Rath, B Hayat, KD Shah, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Aizaz Khan, Scott McKechnie, T Afzal, E Nawaz, Nadeem Ahmed.
Being a day-night fixture, dew could play its part and the team winning the toss will be looking to bowl first.
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
Just like the weather we had in the match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it is expected to be another day where the fitness of the players will be tested. Temperature is predicted to hover in the high thirties and low forties with high humidity. Although the surface is expected to be dry, it will be perfect for the considering even pace and bounce. The team batting first will be looking to post at least around 280 on the board.
Although Hong Kong are overwhelming underdogs to make it out of the group the group stage, they're more than capable of causing an upset considering the brand of Cricket they played in the qualifiers. Just as Ireland did against Pakistan in 2007, they, too, will be looking to do their best and hope for the result to fall in their favor. Having said that, the competition in the qualifiers is a lot different to what it is like in the main event, and facing stroke-making will be a completely different ball game for them. With a formidable batting unit and a lethal bowling attack, Pakistan are firm favorites to emerge victorious here.