After a two year' delay and two changes of venue, the 2022 Asia Cup Qualifier gets underway in Muscat on Saturday (August 20), just a week ahead of the tournament itself. Originally scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur in August 2020, the qualifier was postponed and moved to Sri Lanka along with the main tournament, then moved again to Oman as the Asia Cup itself was switched to the UAE owing to economic crisis and political unrest in Sri Lanka. The quickfire tourney sees the four qualifiers from the 2020 Eastern and Western Regional Qualifiers - Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE and Kuwait - competing for a single berth at the main event alongside the five Asian Full Members.
Asia Cup Qualifiers, 2022 - A ready reckoner
With the main event close at hand there's little space for a drawn-out qualifier, and the format essentially looks like a preliminary group phase for the tournament itself. The four teams will play a single round robin, playing each of their opponents once. In the absence of a final, the table-topper on points, or net run rate in event of a tie, progresses to the Asia Cup proper. The six-match tournament lasts just five days, with all matches played at Oman's facility at Al-Amerat outside of Muscat.
Unbeaten at the Western Regionals two years ago, the United Arab Emirates start as clear favourites. It will be there first outing in the shorter format since their successful T20 World Cup Qualification campaign back in February, however, and their first under new captain CP Rizwan, who comes into the team to take over from Ahmed Raza, who was abruptly relieved of the T20 captaincy on the eve of the tournament. The Emiratis may thus be somewhat undercooked and unsettled, but their recent record, notably five consecutive wins over Ireland in the past year, suggests they will take some beating.
Neighbouring Kuwait claimed the second berth after Oman failed to escape the group phase at at the Western Regional, and carry significant momentum into the tournament and will be well familiar with conditions, coming off the back of a 5-0 whitewash of Bahrain in Muscat last week. While this tournament constitutes a step-up from there, it's worth noting Bahrain did beat the UAE at the recent T20 World Cup Qualifier at the same venue. Skipper Mohammed Aslam's economical left arm spin has been crucial to their success, while all most of the top order have been in fine form. If preparation and a winning habit tells this tournament, Kuwait might yet spring a surprise.
Eastern Region champions Singapore, by contrast, arrive in Muscat bereft of both momentum and their best player. Since the loss of Tim David, who played a crucial role in taking Singapore to the Eastern Region title but now looks destined to don Australia's canary yellow, Singapore have won just two of their last ten T20Is. Their most recent outing in the short format was at the second T20 global qualifier in Zimbabwe last month, where they went winless. Their results in the List A Challenge League have similarly declined, and though individual showings from youngsters such as Rohan Rangarajan, Janak Prakash and Akshay Puri show there is talent coming through, Singapore need to remember how to win without their talisman.
Finally Hong Kong, who memorably not only qualified for the most recent Asia Cup in 2018 but also famously gave India a scare at the tourney, have seen their fortunes decline markedly since. The loss of then-captain Anshuman Rath to Indian domestic cricket, along with ODI status and much of their funding, have seen Hong Kong struggle to regain those past heights. The return of big-hitting Babar Hayat and the form of Aizaz Khan makes Hong Kong less dependent on skipper Nizakat Khan and deputy Kinchit Shah than they have been in the past however, and if this Hong Kong side has looked less than the sum of it's parts recently, should they click this week they remain serious contenders.
Saturday 20 August 2022 19:30 - Hong Kong v Singapore - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
Sunday 21 August 2022 19:30 - Kuwait v United Arab Emirates - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
Monday 22 August 2022 19:30 - Singapore v United Arab Emirates - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
Tuesday 23 August 2022 19:30 - Hong Kong v Kuwait - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
Wednesday 24 August 2022 16:30 - Kuwait v Singapore - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
Wednesday 24 August 2022 19:30 -Hong Kong v United Arab Emirates - Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1, Muscat
UAE: CP Rizwan (c), Chirag Suri, Muhammad Waseem, Vriitya Aravind, Ahmed Raza, Basil Hameed, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Karthik Meiyappan, Zahoor Khan, Zawar Farid, Alishan Sharafu, Sabir Ali, Aryan Lakra, Sultan Ahmad, Junaid Siddique, Fahad Nawaz.
Singapore: Amjad Mahboob (c), Vinoth Baskaran, Surendran Chandramohan, Aman Desai, Aritra Dutta, Rezza Gaznavi, Neil Karnik, Anantha Krishna, Arjun Mutreja, Navin Param, Janak Prakash, Akshay Puri, Rohan Rangarajan, Manpreet Sing, Aryaman Sunil
Kuwait:Mohammed Aslam (c), Nawaf Ahmed, Mohammad Amin, Meet Bhavsar, Adnan Idrees, Muhammad Kashif, Shiraz Khan, Sayed Monib, Usman Patel, Yasin Patel, Shahrukh Quddus, Ravija Sandaruwan, Mohamed Shafeeq, Haroon Shahid, Edson Silva, Bilal Tahir, Ali Zaheer
Hong Kong:Nizakat Khan (c), Kinchit Shah, Zeeshan Ali, Haroon Arshad, Babar Hayat, Aftab Hussain, Ateeq Iqbal, Aizaz Khan, Ehsan Khan, Scott McKechnie, Mohammad Ghazanfar, Yasim Murtaza, Dhananjay Rao, Wajid Shah, Ayush Shukla, Ahan Trivedi, Mohammad Waheed