After a thrilling finish against Pakistan, India would’ve hoped for a more comfortable match against Hong Kong. But they were in for a surprise as the ‘minnows’ gave a stern fight to the Men in Blue. India were under pressure for the first 15 overs of the match as Kong Kong gave no freebies and kept the Indian stalwarts – Virat Kohli and KL Rahul – quiet. India needed a T20I batting masterclass from Suryakumar Yadav to bail them out of a mediocre inning and put up a total that proved beyond Hong Kong’s reach. We take a look at a few moments and stats that shaped this encounter of the 2022 Asia Cup.

India vs Hong Kong - Key Performers Asia Cup cricket stats T20I
India vs Hong Kong – Key Performers

India’s sedate start

After all the talk about the new aggressive approach from India, they failed to walk the talk as they struggled to provide impetus in the first inning. Captain Rohit Sharma threw caution to the wind by scoring a brisk 21 off 13 balls, but Rahul and Kohli failed to replicate that intent.

Rahul found it even more challenging, and he ended his 39-ball long innings at a strike rate of less than 100. In a batting lineup with seven proper batters, Rahul used up 32.5% of available balls and struck at just 5.71 RPO.

Kohli remained unbeaten on 59 off 44 balls, striking at 134.09. He might have played a T20I knock that we often saw from him during his prime, but to have played that knock despite Rahul’s in the same inning, could have hurt India against a slightly better side. Going forward, India will need to identify their best top-order combination and people who buy the team’s new approach.

Is SKY the limit?

Ever since he made his T20I debut, Suryakumar ‘SKY’ Yadav has produced innings that make the other batters around him look average. It was no different against Hong Kong. When Rahul and Kohli struggled to even rotate the strike, let alone score boundaries, it seemed that the pitch was a lot difficult to bat on. Then came SKY.

Suryakumar Yadav injected life into India's inning Asia Cup cricket stats T20I
Suryakumar Yadav injected life into India’s inning

When SKY came in to bat, India had scored just 94 runs from 13 overs. In the next seven overs, India ended up with 192 on the board, of which SKY alone scored 68, including 26 off the last over. Not often does a batter outscore Kohli in any format, but SKY scored almost 70% of the runs in their partnership.

One aspect that stood out was his premeditation of the areas he wanted to target. Once he did that, he forced the bowlers to break their rhythm, who eventually ended up bowling to SKY’s strengths. He smartly used the bowlers’ pace to his advantage, scoring 28 runs behind the stumps. India will need to find ways to make SKY play as many balls as possible in the upcoming games.

India’s leaky pace attack

Despite a 40-run win, India wouldn’t be too happy with how their pacers bowled, especially Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh. They might be relatively inexperienced at the international level, but the execution of their skills was off by a distance. The duo conceded 97 runs off eight overs between them.

It was probably an off day for Singh, who has otherwise been quite impressive in his short career so far. However, Khan is developing an unwanted pattern of leaking runs during all stages of the inning.

Avesh Khan has been expensive in death overs cricket stats Asia Cup T20I
Avesh Khan has been expensive in death overs

Known for his pace and ability to nail yorkers, Khan’s pace has dropped considerably, and he has seldom used his yorkers. His main issue has been not varying his pace and offering medium-paced balls on a good length, allowing batters to get underneath the ball. He’s had forgettable returns in the death overs of a T20I, and India might not persist with him in the Super Four round of the Asia Cup.

It was a mixed match for India as they registered a big 40-run victory, with their spinners shining bright, along with the veteran, Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, they would expect more from their top order batters, who’ve been timid in their approach, so far. Hong Kong would look back at their fight with their heads held high and will hope for a better showing against Pakistan to try and cause an upset in this year’s Asia Cup.