Nepal looks to triumph over Hong Kong after losing last meeting

Kathmandu, Apr. 15: Nepal and Hong Kong are set to face off on Monday at the ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Muscat, Oman. Having defeated Malaysia and Qatar in a row, Defending champion Nepal will be aiming to continue its winning streak to secure the top spot in Group A. 

In addition to this, the Nepali senior team will also be looking to avenge their defeat to Hong Kong during the Friendship Cup.

Hong Kong was dominant against Nepal during the duo’s last faceoff as the host defeated Nepal by 73 runs in a one-match T20 organised on March 9 to celebrate the friendship between Cricket Hong Kong and Cricket Association of Nepal. 

Hong Kong had invited Nepal and Papua New Guinea (PNG) for a tri-nation T20 tournament in a single round-robin format, and the ‘Friendship Cup’ between Nepal and Hong Kong was organised a day before the tournament.

While Hong Kong defeated Nepal in the ‘Friendship Cup’, the duo’s second match on March 10, which was the opening match of the tri-nation tournament, was called off due to rain after the end of the eighth over in the first inning.

Earlier meetings

Nepal hosted Hong Kong and the UAE in October 2023 for a tri-nation T20 tournament played in a double round-robin format. 

Nepal defeated Hong Kong in the two group matches played at Mulpani Cricket Ground. Hong Kong was bundled out at 94 runs in the first match by Nepal while the host defended the target of 214 runs in the second encounter.

While Hong Kong only won one match in the tournament, a win by 69 runs against the UAE in the duo’s second group-stage match, Nepal won all four matches. However, Nepal lost to the UAE in the final.

Teams’ preparation

After the end of the tri-nation tournament in Hong Kong, Nepal returned home and played a two-match unofficial T20 series against Ireland’s A team. Nepal’s senior squad whitewashed the series.

Nepal then travelled to India and defeated two Ranji teams – Gujarat and Baroda – and lifted the SMS Friendship Cup before arriving in Oman for the ACC Men’s Premier Cup 2024.

“We have prepared well for the ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Oman as we faced two good competitors here,” said Nepal’s coach Monty Desai at the end of the tournament in Gujarat, India.

On the other hand, Hong Kong visited the UAE before arriving in Oman. Hong Kong and the UAE played a three-match unofficial T20 series on April 5, 6 and 8. 

The UAE whitewashed the series defeating Hong Kong by five runs in the first and last T20s and by 27 runs in the second. Hong Kong also had a couple of training sessions in the Gulf.

 “Nepal is a very good side, no doubt about it. But as I say, you never know what can happen in a T20. Moreover, we are well prepared to win the tournament,” said Jawai Iqbal, Elite Development and Performance Coach for Cricket Hong Kong, while addressing a pre-tournament conference in Oman.

Players to watch

After back-to-back match-winning feats in the Premier Cup, all-rounder Dipendra Singh Airee will be Nepal’s most lethal player in the upcoming matches.

Dipendra mostly comes down the order; however, he is still getting turns with enough overs in hand as the top order has been failing continuously. Even if he does not get a chance to bat against Hong Kong, his bowling and fielding will still be major threats, especially against Hong Kong. 

Likewise, after hitting six sixes in an over against Qatar, Dipendra will definitely be feared by bowlers in the upcoming matches.

The all-rounder was unavailable in the squad against Hong Kong when Nepal was defeated in the ‘Friendship Cup’; thus, he will look forward to giving his best on Monday and helping Nepal defend the title. 

On the other hand, Hong Kong’s Babar Hayat will be the most troublesome batsman for Nepal. Hayat’s 110 off 49 deliveries against Nepal in the ‘Friendship Cup’ was the winning knock for Hong Kong. 

Hayat could not perform well in the latest series against the UAE. Hayat returned to the pavilion after scoring only one run each in the first and third T20s and 34 runs off 31 deliveries in the second T20.

Nevertheless, Hayat showed he had not lost his form when Hong Kong faced and defeated Qatar on the opening day of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup 2024. Hayat scored 55 off 39 with three fours and four sixes and was the second-highest scorer of the match after Hong Kong’s skipper Nizakat Khan.

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