Minnows Hong Kong put up a spirited fight before going down by 26 runs to a rather insipid Indian team in their Group A One-Day International (ODI) match of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here.
Chasing a challenging target of 286 runs, Hong Kong rode on half-centuries by opener Nizakat Khan and Anshuman Rath before batting out their full quota of 50 overs for a score of 259/8.
Khan was the highest scorer for Hong Kong with 92 runs off 115 balls while Rath scored 73 off 97. The duo frustrated the Indian bowlers for a rather lenghty period on their way to an opening partnership of 174 runs in 34 overs.
Kuldeep Yadav finally broke the partnership with a flighted delivery when Rath tried to go for a big shot only to see India’s stand in skipper Rohit Sharma pull off a fine diving effort.
Khan departed in the next over after being trapped leg before by debutant pacer Khaleel Ahmad.
The departure of the two openers saw the required run rate climb steadily. The rest of the Hong Kong batsmen did well to bat out the remaining overs, but did not have the ability nor perhaps the experience to go for the win.
Earlier, opener Shikhar Dhawan (127) smashed a century to set perfect platform but some poor batting from the middle-order saw India post 285/7.
One of the few positives for India from this match was the discovery of yet another promising pacer in Ahmed who did well to return excellent figures of 3/48 on his international debut.
At one point India were 240/2 after 40 overs but after the fall of Dhawan, who slammed his 14th ODI ton, the other middle-order batsmen went to pavilion one after another, thanks to clever bowling by the Hong Kong spinners.
Put in to bat, Indian openers Rohit Sharma (23) and Dhawan started the proceeding on a positive note, forging a 45-run disciplined partnership in eight overs. Rohit displayed some beautifully crafted shots but was soon picked up by pacer Ehsan Khan. His 22 ball innings included four boundaries.
New batsman Ambati Rayudu (60) then joined Dhawan in the middle started punishing the bad balls. The duo played freely and smashing the Hong Kong bowlers all around the park to build a 100-run partnership.
Rayudu and Dhawan completed half-century before Rayudu was caught by Scott McKechnie off Ehsan Nawaz in the 30th over. But unperturbed by the fall of wicket, Dhawan kept on playing the attacking game and completed his 14th ton.
New batsmen Dinesh Karthik and Dhawan then played attacking cricket and in the process Dhawan gifted his wicket to spinner K.D. Shah. His 120 ball innings was comprised of 15 boundaries and two sixes.
It was all going perfect, but after Dhawan’s wicket, spinners attacked Indian batsmen and took wickets in clusters.
The first one to go was M.S. Dhoni (0) and then it was Karthik. Kedar Jadhav (28 not out) along with other batters –Bhuvneshwar Kumar (9), Shardul Thakur (0) and Kuldeep Yadav (0), however tried to pace up the innings towards the end but could not breach the 300-run mark.>