World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015
Hong Kong look for second World Twenty20 qualification
Hong Kong were - for some - a surprise qualifier to the World Twenty20 from the last qualifying tournament in 2013, but this time nobody will be surprised by the team that has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years as they look for a second consecutive qualification.
Hong Kong had something of a hit and miss World Twenty20 last year. They started by getting thrashed by Nepal, but ended it with a win over full members Bangladesh. They also had a run to the semi-finals of the Asian Games Twenty20 tournament, but lost to Afghanistan in the semi-final before losing the bronze medal match against a weaker Bangladesh side than they played in the World Twenty20.
One potential barrier for Hong Kong could be the conditions. Hong Kong haven't played in Europe as a team since the 1990 ICC Trophy. Speaking to CricketEurope, coach Charlie Burke sad that the team doesn't often get an opportunity to play outside Asia. However, he feels that the way they've gone about their preparation has "got the guys used to the slower wickets". He feels that the conditions will suit their bowlers.
He said that the wickets seam around much more in England, but that "the guys have adjusted pretty well". The top batsman have been playing a lot more cricket overseas, including in England, and that they've tried to be more proactive about preparing players for different conditions.
Jamie Atkinson played for Durham MCCU for a few seasons and had a brief stint in county cricket with Warwickshire. Anshuman Rath, who has come into the side recently, plays for Harrow School in England, and has played age group cricket for Middlesex.
One change recently has been the captain. Jamie Atkinson has handed over the captaincy duties to Tanwir Afzal. Burke said he was worried "that his performances might decline" with the captaincy but he's actually "thrived on it". Burke said that Afzal was "loving the conditions" they've been playing in on their preparation tour of England, and that he was in great rhythm with the ball, and had recently got back into form with the bat after a lean spell.
Star Man: Irfan Ahmed. When he doesn't get out for a duck, he is capable of making some big scores if he gets hold of a bowling attack, and can be a useful bowler too. Burke told us that he had been "trying too hard to get contracts outside of Hong Kong" and that he has in the past put "too much pressure on himself". He's improved his preparation in recent months and become more disciplined. Burke is expecting a good tournament from him.
Players to watch: Mark Chapman returns to the side after missing the Namibia tour. Burke said that the team loving having him around due to his character and described him as "one of the best associate fielders" with a terrific work ethic. Anshuman Rath is an up and coming player to keep an eye on for the future and in this tournament.
CricketEurope verdict: If they can cope with the conditions Hong Kong are capable of winning the tournament. But consistency can sometimes be a problem for them, so that may be too much to expect. Qualification for India in 2016 though is almost certain.
Hong Kong: Tanwir Afzal (captain), Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, Jamie Atkinson, Waqas Barkat, Mark Chapman, Aizaz Khan, Anas Khan, Nizakat Khan, Giacomo Lamplough, Ehsan Nawaz, Babar Hayat, Anshuman Rath, Kinchit ShahHong Kong fixtures