There was brief hope this would be competitive when Mohammad Amir was carted for 11 in the first over the innings, but after that Pakistan made the difference in class show almost every ball.
As a result, Hong Kong, who qualified for this tournament with a win against the Asia Cup hosts UAE, lost numerous wickets in clumps, and had much to thank a sixth wicket half-century to even put up a three-figure total. Usman Khan eventually decimated the lower-middle order resistance with three wickets in an over and Hong Kong folded for a meek 116 in 37 overs.
Hong Kong had gleefully decided to bat first in brutally hot conditions in Dubai, but there was no sign of a drop in Pakistan’s fielding levels.
The opening wicket fell to sharp work at point by Shadab Khan, sporting a new hairstyle and, seemingly, a fresh burst of energy.
A direct hit put paid to Nizakat Khan, who flinched away from the ball instead of diving towards the crease.
Hong Kong found run-scoring extremely difficult in the face of a full-strength Pakistan attack. Even on their best batsman Babar Hayat couldn’t cope. Having made just seven runs in 29 deliveries, he charged at Shadab first ball, got nowhere near the pitch of it and was stumped with time to spare.
The highlight for Anshy Rath’s men was a 53-run partnership between Kinchit Shah and Aizaz Khan that lifted them from 44 for 5. It upped the run rate, too – a glorious six off Shoaib Malik over extra cover was a particularly eye-catching highlight – and briefly had the Associate nation dreaming of a score that might challenge Pakistan, particularly if the surface took turn later on under the lights.
But Usman came back just in time to quash those dreams. Aizaz was cleaned up by a fast bowler’s dream of a delivery, bursting through the gap between bat and pad and taking off stump with it. Three balls later, Scott McKechnie was trapped plumb in front as he tried to flick and the over ended with Tanwir Afzal bowled for a golden duck. 97 for 5 became 97 for 8, and Pakistan were looking at a cakewalk again.
The only dampener for Pakistan was Usman limping off midway through the 33rd over with a possible toe injury. The left-arm quick’s career is already rife with such setbacks and both he and his team will hope this one is minor. Especially considering Pakistan are playing India on September 19.—Agencies