The lure of playing against India and Pakistan on the big stage is up for grabs for the team that can win the Asia Cup qualifier tournament in Oman.
Hong Kong, Kuwait, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates will battle it out in the four-team round robin style tournament, with the winning country earning a spot in Group A at the Asia Cup later this month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) reported on Thursday. Games against India (August 31) and Pakistan (September 2) will then follow for the winner of the qualifier tournament, meaning stakes are high during the five-day event in Al-Amerat.
The United Arab Emirates are the highest ranked T20I team in the qualifier tournament at 12, but on recent form there doesn’t appear to be much between any of the four contenders. Hong Kong will be buoyed by their comprehensive seven-wicket triumph over Singapore at the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifier B last month and have an experienced former first-class cricketer and Ireland international at the helm with Trent Johnston their head coach.
Johnston began his career in Australia playing alongside Test greats Mark Taylor and Brett Lee for New South Wales, but gained further notoriety when representing Ireland in 97 international matches. The 48-year-old then turned his attention to coaching, with spells in Ireland and Australia coming before he accepted the top job with Hong Kong some three years ago.
While results haven’t always gone their way, Johnston has been pleased with the progression his team has made and is confident of a good showing during the qualifying tournament. “The Asia Cup qualifiers, and Asia Cup, present a great opportunity for us to finish off an intense and long period of overseas tours on a high,” Johnston said.
“I’m incredibly proud of the efforts of all the players and the sacrifices both them and their families have made to be able to tour for such a long period. “We’ve got a great group of players that I know are excited by the chance to qualify for the Asia Cup and take on the Test-playing nations before heading home for a well-earned rest.”
ASIA CUP QUALIFIER SCHEDULE
August 20 – Singapore v Hong Kong
August 21 – United Arab Emirates v Kuwait
August 22 – United Arab Emirates v Singapore
August 23 – Kuwait v Hong Kong
August 24 – Singapore v Kuwait
August 24 – Hong Kong v UAE