Asia Cup 4th Match: Dhawan ensures India overcome Hong Kong scare

Shikhar Dhawan 127 India Hong Kong Asia Cup Dubai cricket

Shikhar Dhawan struck his 14th ODI century

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

Hong Kong opener Nizakat Khan and captain Anshuman Rath gave India a major scare in their Asia Cup clash, but Shikhar Dhawan ensured the men in blue triumphed by 26 runs.

Dhawan scored a sensational 127, but both Nizakat and Rath deserve a serious amount of credit for their knocks of 92 and 73 respectively.

However, with Hong Kong losing this game, their Asia Cup campaign came to an end.

Being put in to bat first, India made a solid start to their innings as Dhawan and captain Rohit Sharma amassed a 45-run partnership before Rohit was caught by Nizakat Khan at mid-off off the bowling of Ehsan Khan for 23.

Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu kept the runs flowing with a 116-run stand, during which both batsmen surpassed their half-centuries.

Ambati Rayudu 60 India Hong Kong Asia Cup Dubai cricket

Ambati Rayudu scored his seventh ODI fifty

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

With India cruising, Hong Kong were in desperate need of a wicket, and it was Ehsan Nawaz that provided the breakthrough as he had Rayudu caught behind for 60, which came off 70 balls and included three boundaries and two sixes.

Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik added 79 runs to the score, during which Dhawan brought up his hundred, before he was caught by Tanwir Afzal off the bowling of Kinchit Shah for 127, which came off 120 balls and included 15 boundaries and two sixes.

MS Dhoni failed to trouble the scorers as he was caught behind off the bowling of Ehsan for a duck.

Karthik went on to make 33, but India continued to lose wickets at regular intervals.

Thanks to an unbeaten 28 from Kedar Jadhav towards the end of the innings, India finished on 285/7.

Kinchit was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Ehsan took two, and Nawaz and Aizaz Khan chipped in with one wicket apiece.

Chasing 286 to win, Hong Kong made an inspiring start to their innings as Nizakat and Rath forged a record-breaking 174-run partnership, during which both batsmen surpassed their half-centuries.

Nizakat Khan 92 Anshuman Rath 73 India Hong Kong Asia Cup Dubai cricket

Nizakat Khan (right) made his third ODI half-century, while Anshuman Rath scored his seventh fifty in the 50-over format

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

With Hong Kong marching towards a stunning upset, India did everything in their power to try and break the stand.

It wasn’t until the 35th over that India finally got the breakthrough they were looking for as Rath was caught by Rohit at extra cover off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav for 73, which came off 97 balls and included four boundaries and a six.

Nizakat and Rath’s partnership was the highest in ODI history for Hong Kong as it narrowly surpassed the 170-run stand they put together against Scotland in January 2016.

Nizakat fell the very next over as he was given out lbw off the bowling of debutant Khaleel Ahmed for 92, which came off 115 deliveries and included 12 boundaries and a six.

Chris Carter and Babar Hayat fell shortly after, while Kinchit and Ehsan added 28 runs to the score before Kinchit was dismissed by Yuzvendra Chahal for 17.

Aizaz and wicketkeeper Scott McKechnie failed to have much of an impact, while Ehsan went on to make 22 before he was caught and bowled by Khaleel.

With Hong Kong imploding after the strong start Nizakat and Rath gave them, they ended up falling short of their target as they finished on 259/8.

Khaleel and Chahal took three wickets apiece, while Kuldeep claimed two.

Rath was gutted to lost, and said: “We are proud, but it’s bittersweet. We should’ve probably won it, but lost few too many wickets in the middle during key times. Credit to the India bowlers for sticking with their plans. Going into the tournament we had no pressure, and we wanted to play with a smile on our faces. It would’ve been nice if we rolled over the best team in the world, but I’m super proud of the boys.

“Nizakat’s innings at the top was great. He batted at No. 4 in the qualifiers, but he’s delivered as the opener. And against the best white-ball side in the world, we showed the kind of cricket we can play. Our bowlers stuck out in the heat, and we pulled India to under 300.”

Rohit was relieved to have won, and said: “Eventually to win the game is important. We always knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had an inexperienced bowling line-up, but that’s no excuse. The mistake was that we could’ve attacked a bit more. It’s a mistake, and that’s a learning curve. They pulled off the victory, and I have no doubt for the future as well.

“Didn’t doubt ourselves at any stage, but credit to Hong Kong. Great partnership by their openers, and for our bowling curve, it was great to handle those situations. We will be put under pressure at times, and it’s important to handle it. The positives were Shikhar’s innings. He had a long tour of England, and was determined to bat in those conditions. It wasn’t easy. And Ambati Rayudu as well. Playing after a long time and got a fifty. And of course, Dinesh and Kedar finished off well.

“Khaleel is a very exciting player. He showed he didn’t start well, but was good enough to come back well. If you can’t do well for 2-3 overs it’s okay, but you should find a way to come back, and he really found that way, and found his rewards. We know we’re playing back-to-back games, but no problem. That’s why we rested some players for today.”

Dhawan was named Man of the Match, and said: “I was working hard as always, and was being patient knowing that runs were going to come. I wasn’t taking extra risk today, was playing on the merit of the ball. And they were bowling in right areas. The pitch was a bit slow too.”

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