2018 ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers logo - Image by Malaysian Cricket Association @MalaysiaCricket (Twitter)

The 2018 edition of Asia Cup, the biggest tournament in the region between Asian Full member countries is scheduled to begin from Sep 15th in UAE.

Six Countries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan the winner of Asia Cup 2018 qualifiers (Non-Full member) will participate in the tournament, which will be played in its traditional 50-overs format.

The Qualification tournament will be hosted by Malaysian Cricket Association,  were six teams will be competing for one qualification spot into the main draw of the tournament in UAE.

Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong, Oman, Singapore & host’s Malaysia will be in action from Aug 29th – Sep 6th, 2018 in a single round-robin group stage, from which the top two countries at the end of group stage in terms of points will compete in the final to secure their spot in 2018 Asia Cup.

Three matches on each group phase match days will be played at Kinrara Oval, Bayuemas Oval and UKM Oval. The full schedule link can be found here.

All the participating team’s have been training for last few weeks now with most of them playing multiple warm-up games in both Malaysia and Sri Lanka before arriving for the tournament proper. For some of the results of warm-up matches, visit twitter on @czarsportzauto

Let’s take a look at how the team’s stack up in the Qualifiers:

Malaysia: As host’s they will be eyeing to secure their spot in 2018 Asia Cup, having the advantages of home conditions and players having played considerable amount of cricket in the past few months (Currently in World Cricket League Division 4, which they hosted in Apr 2018).

Malaysia national squad members played against Singapore at the start often their domestic season and followed up by tours by Sri Lanka Army and Hong Kong “A” squads. The players were involved in the recently concluded Malaysian Premier League, which provided them crucial 50-overs match practice before the Asia Cup qualifiers.

Most of the squad members have also played as part of President XI team against Hong Kong / Hong Kong “A” / UAE in the practice matches in the lead up to the tournament proper.

Malaysia Squad: Ahmad Faiz Noor (Captain), Airman Syahadat Ramli, Abdul Rashid, Suharril Fetri, Anwar Arudin, Pavandeep Singh, Virandeep Singh, Dhivendran Mogan, Syazrul Ezzat, Sharvin, Saifullah Malik, Mohd Syafiq, Mohd Anwar, Muhammad Anwar & Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak, Virandeep Singh, Pavandeep Singh, Saifullah Malik, Syahadat Ramli & Suharril Fetri

Oman: Much was expected from the team which has been been making giant strides in International Cricket since 2015, when they qualified for World T20 in 2016 in India. Their 50-overs form was evident in WCL Divisions 4 and 3, leading many to believe that they would be a force to reckon with in Division 2 and can actually qualify for ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

However, there was disappointment in store as they couldn’t advance from Division 2 and now remain there to play in the division again in 2019 to try to qualify for WCL Championships and advance towards 2023 ICC World Cup in India.

The national squad members have been playing domestic cricket in the past 2-3 months and have gone through extensive training sessions in the heat to acclamatize themselves for challenges in Malaysia. A tour to Sri Lanka for preparatory games has helped their confidence even more after having displayed good performances against some of Sri Lanka’s First-class and National players.

Oman Squad: Zeeshan Maqsood (Captain), Khawar Ali, Jatinder Singh, Aaqib Ilyas, Vaibhav Wategaonkar, Muhammad Nadeem, Mehran Khan, Muhammad Naseem, Jay Odedra, Bilal Khan, Ahmed Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah, Sufyan Mahmood, Ajay Lalcheta and Suraj Kumar

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Zeeshan Maqsood, Khawar Ali, Bilal Khan, Aaqib Ilyas, Sufyaan Mahmood & Ajay Lalcheta

Hong Kong: The loss against Netherlands in the play-off’s in 2018 ICC World Cup Qualifiers meant that Hong Kong lost out on their ODI status until FY2022, which has dented the financial support in a big way in terms of losing crucial ICC funding. What added onto it was losing the Sports Institute funding as well as Cricket was not included in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. So if any team is more motivated than others to ensure they get back to top flight of International cricket in the Asia Cup qualifiers, it would be HK.

Hong Kong sent their “A” team to malaysia prior to their main squad travelling as part of their preparations. Some of the national squad members travelled with the “A” squad as well as part of them acclimatizing in the conditions.

The bowlers were in top-notch form in the warm-up games against Malaysia President XI and will be expected to put good pressure on all the team’s. The batting needs to be fine-tuned with players getting out quite often after getting a start.

Hong Kong Squad: Babar Hayat (Captain), Anshuman Rath, Tanwir Afzal, Nadeem Ahmed, Haroon Arshad, Chris Carter, Aizaz Khan, Ehsan Khan, Nizakat Khan, Waqas Khan, Cameron McAuslan, Scott McKechnie, Ehsan Nawaz, Kinchit Shah & Jhatha Subramanyan

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Babar Hayat, Anshuman Rath, Tanwir Afzal, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Aizaz Khan, Nadeem Ahmed & Nizakat Khan

United Arab Emirates: UAE come into the qualifiers as the pre-tournament favourites with the incentive of getting crucial Full member matches at home, should they qualify. UAE haven’t had their fair share of regular fixtures despite having the ODI status for a long time now. A good showing in the ICC World Cup qualifiers saw them reach the Super Six stage of the tournament and retain their ODI status until FY2022.

UAE were also part of the ICC World T20 Asia “A” qualifiers in Kuwait, which they dominated and won as expected and the national squad members have been playing domestic cricket at home. The team travelled to Malaysia few days earlier and has played warm-up games against Malaysia President XI and the overall team performance was just about OK.

UAE Squad: Rohan Mustafa (Captain), Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri, Rameez Shahzad, Muhammad Usman, Adnan Mufti, Shaiman Anwar, Ahmed Raza, Imran Haider, Muhammad Naveed, Amir Hayat, Abdul Shakhoor, Rahul Bhatia, Fahad Nawaz & Zahoor Khan

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Rohan Mustafa, Rameez Shahzad, Chirag Suri, Ahmed Raza, Mohammad Naveed, Muhammad Usman, Imran Harder & Zahoor Khan

Nepal: With their recent performances in International cricket, Nepal would be another contender for pre-tournament favourites tag. Having secured their historic ODI status in the ICC World Cup qualifiers to playing their maiden ODI series against Netherlands, the journey has been a fruitful one.

With the addition of new Indian batting consultant in Apurva Desai, Nepal have been trying to find solutions to their struggle at the top order. A pre-tour to Sri Lanka saw them play few warm-up games against development squads of Sri Lanka First-class Clubs.

Some of the National squad members have the experience of paying in Malaysia earlier and it would come in handy for their crucial matches against Hong Kong, UAE and Oman.

Nepal Squad: Paras Khadka (Captain), Anil Kumar Sah, Basant Regmi, Binod Bhandari, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gyanendra Malla, Karan KC, Lalit Bhandari, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi, Md. Arif Sheikh, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Sagar Pun, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sompal Kami & Subash Khakurel

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Paras Khadka, Sandeep Lamichhane, Gyanendra Malla, Basant Regmi, Sompal Kami, Dipendra Singh Airee & Arif Sheikh

Singapore: Singapore players have the knowledge and experience of playing in conditions in Malaysia and will look to put pressure on the other fancied teams in the tournament but an upset or two is the most expected from them as per general street talk.

Singapore national squad members played against Malaysia at the start of their domestic season and followed up by the SCA Elite series (T20 format), but there hasn’t been much 50-overs competitions thereafter.

Singapore Squad: Chetan Suryawanshi (Captain), Rohan Rangrajan, Aritra Dutta, Anish Paraam, Arjun Mutreja, Manpreet Singh, Karthik Subramanian, Anantha Krishna, Amjad Mahboob, Aalap Asurlekar, Abhiraj Singh, Aryaman Uchil, Sharan Swaminathan, Selladore Vijaykumar & Rezza Gaznavi

Key Players for Fantasy Cricket: Rohan Rangrajan, Anantha Krishna, Anish Paraam, Chetan Suryawanshi & Abhiraj Singh

Final of the Asia Cup qualifiers will be broadcast live on the Star Sports network and live streaming on Hotstar for the same. One hopes that either Asian Cricket Council or Malaysian Cricket Association are able to arrange some sort of Live stream on their facebook pages as the demand for viewership is more from countries like Nepal, UAE and Oman.

The winner of the Qualifiers will also get to play the ACC Emerging Nations Asia Cup in Dec 2018.

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