The Big Match - Close Contest Expected In Fast Track Final

Hong Kong’s Afzaal Haider UAE’s Arshad Ali

Hong Kong v UAE – February 10 -12, 2005

Hong Kong and the UAE, the two top teams in the Fast Track competition, meet in a winner-take-all Final in Hong Kong. They have shown themselves to be no strangers to competition at the highest level over the years having contested the 2004 Asia Cup and taken part in World Cups. At present it is generally acknowledged that these two countries are fielding their strongest teams ever.

Their creditable performances in the Asia Cup, from which both sides retain the same core squad of players augurs well for the match-up between the two. Packed as both teams are with varied bowling attacks and deep, hard-hitting batting line-ups, spectators can expect to witness a fine competitive balance and at this stage it is impossible to predict who will win.

Home advantage for Hong Kong would mean a lot normally, but as the UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir says: "we have played very good cricket all over Asia and are no strangers to Hong Kong. I am confident the boys will do well."

Unbeaten on their way to the Final, both teams have succeeded through attacking play. In Ali Asad (23 wickets at 10.04) the UAE have someone who has beaten batsmen with pace and bounce all year. Up against him is the pantherish Afzaal Haider of Hong Kong who has 19 wickets at 12.73.

Both spearheads will be up against batsmen who, with 7 hundreds and 8 fifties in Fast Track, aren't flat-track bullies by any means and have both the flair to score quickly and the application to bat for long periods of time. The UAE's Arshad Ali has been the Tournament's highest scorer with 373 runs at an average of 186.5, including 2 hundreds and 2 fifties. A brutal yet clinically precise batsman.

Spirit between the teams is good, friendships having been forged over 2004 and before. It will be a fascinating contest and promises to be quite the most competitive fixture ever in the history of the non-Test playing ACC members.

Fast Track competition is undoubtedly the way forward for these countries and this inaugural Final will play a significant part in establishing emerging Asian nations' competitiveness in the cricket world.

Filed February 4 2005