Hong Kong are playing in the Asia Cup for the second time, and are drawn in the toughest first round pool with Pakistan and India. They qualified for the event after a close 18 run Duckworth/Lewis win over Afghanistan in the semi-final of the 2006 ACC Trophy.
24th June: Hong Kong v Pakistan
There is going to be no easy match in this tournament for Hong Kong, but they will be hoping to perform with some credit against a team that has played Zimbabwe or Bangladesh in 11 of its 13 ODIs so far this year. Pakistan do come into the tournament in some form, winning a short tri-series in Bangladesh, whilst Hong Kong had a mostly unsuccessful tour of Pakistan. But we all know what happened the last time Pakistan played an ODI against an associate nation in a major international tournament. Can Hong Kong emulate Ireland and shock the cricketing world?
18th July 2004: Pakistan beat Hong Kong by 173 runs (ODI)
25th June: Hong Kong v India
As with the Pakistan match, Hong Kong are unlikely to cause an upset here in their first ever match against India, especially as they will be coming into this match after the game the previous day against Pakistan, whilst India will be coming in fresh. India are at near full-strength for this event, missing only Sachin Tendulkar. They will be a handful for a Hong Kong team made up of several youngsters, including two 17 year olds.
Key player: Hussain Butt
Hussain Butt has been a regular in the Hong Kong team over the past two years. An all-rounder, he averages 41.63 with the bat, and 25.10 with the ball. He has a double century in a three-day game against the UAE under his belt, as well as two centuries in the ACC Trophy campaign that got Hong Kong to this tournament.
His bowling came on in leaps and bounds at the ACC Twenty20 Cup last year, where he was second in the tournament bowling averages with seven wickets at 6.85, behind only a bowler who bowled 1.2 overs. He was also the most economical bowler in the tournament, and Hong Kong will look to him to avoid conceding too many runs against the two Test nations.
United Arab EmiratesThe UAE are also playing in the Asia Cup for the second time, though they did previously ODI cricket in the 1994 Austral-Asia Cup and the 1996 World Cup. They reached the event after a nine wicket win over Nepal in the semi-final of the 2006 ACC Trophy.
24th June: UAE v Bangladesh
Despite Pakistan's recent record against associate nations, this is the best chance of a win for one of the two associate nations in this tournament. The UAE are one of the strongest associate nations, and are currently ranked seventh in the CricketEurope rankings, only four points behind fourth placed Scotland. Bangladesh are the weakest Test playing nation (excluding the currently suspended Zimbabweans) so the UAE will hope to spring a surprise in this match.
21st February 1994: UAE beat Bangladesh by 6 wickets (ICC Trophy)
15th September 1996: Bangladesh beat UAE by 108 runs (ACC Trophy)
29th March 1997: Bangladesh beat UAE by 110 runs (ICC Trophy)
10th October 1998: Bangladesh beat UAE by 6 wickets (ACC Trophy)
26th June: UAE v Sri Lanka
This match against the defending champions will be a much tougher assignment for the UAE than the Bangladesh game. Memories will be fresh in the UAE squad of the 116 run defeat against them in the last tournament back in 2004, and they will be hoping to perform with more credit in this second encounter between the two teams.
Key Player: Arshad Ali
Arshad Ali was largely ineffectual in the last Asia Cup, but has since developed into a fine all-rounder for his adopted country. In List A cricket he averages 32.82 with the bat and just 16.14 with the ball. He has scored two centuries with a best of 139 (he also has two first-class centuries) and has a best innings bowling performance of 7/41 against Denmark in the World Cricket League Division Two tournament last year, where he was man of the match in four of his six matches.
He has the record for the UAE's highest individual score, 213 against Brunei during the 2006 ACC Trophy campaign that got the UAE to this tournament. In his six matches in that tournament, he scored 461 runs at 153.66 and took nine wickets at 16.11, unsurprisingly picking up the player of the tournament award, as well as three of his 11 career man of the match awards.