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Tue, 22 December 2015

Cricket: Hong Kong to Host Scotland in Braidwood Cup Series in January

The Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA) will host Scotland next month in a festival of cricket at Mission Road (Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground) in Kowloon.

It will be the first time that Hong Kong has played at home since 2011, and will mark the first One Day International and First Class Cricket matches ever played on Chinese soil.

In a nod to the visitors and as recognition of Hong Kongs Scottish heritage, and deeply rooted though perhaps surprising cricketing links, the HKCA has created an overall series prize, the Braidwood Cup, for the incoming tour.

The Cup is named after Scottish expatriate William Drew Braidwood, who founded the Craigengower Cricket Club (CCC) in 1894, the second oldest such club in the territory after the Hong Kong Cricket Club (est. in 1851).

The Braidwood Cup will feature eight days of world-class cricket including the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match, two One Day International (ODI) matches played as part of the ICC World Cricket League Championship and two Twenty20 (T20) Internationals.

The event will give local fans their first chance to see the Hong Kong team in action since the Division III World Cricket League Championship was hosted in the city in 2011.

Hong Kong have made waves on the international scene since then, securing ODI status in 2014 after finishing third in the 2014 Cricket World Cup Qualifier and gaining T20 International status in 2013 after qualifying for the 2014 ICC World Twenty20.

Were a different team now to that of 2011, said HKCA Director of Cricket Charlie Burke, The players have worked hard for the past four years and we are a much different side. Were excited about the Braidwood Cup as the players have not had the chance to play in front of our home crowds in several years.

Hong Kongs strengths at present revolve more around short form cricket, with Scotland seemingly having the upper hand in the impending Intercontinental Cup clash.

Scotland have played about 400 games of First Class cricket, compared to Hong Kong with two. Their players are heavily involved in County Cricket in the United Kingdom, so they have more experience in the format, but we have nothing to lose and Im sure the team will play that much bigger in front of their families and friends, said Burke.

The First Class, Intercontinental Cup (I-Cup) is the ICCs Test Cricket pathway tournament, featuring the best eight teams outside of the top 10, or test playing nations.

The winner of the three-year, single round, I-Cup series will play a home and away test challenge against the lowest ranked test side. If the I-Cup winner is successful in that series, they will qualify as a Test nation for the next four-year cycle, allowing them to compete in the sports highest echelon of the traditional, five-day form.

After the conclusion of the I-Cup, Hong Kong will host two ICC World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) matches. The WCLC is contested by the next eight teams outside of the twelve-team top-tier ODI nations, which includes Associate members Afghanistan and Ireland. The games will be played in the same 50-over ODI format as the World Cup.

The WCLC matches are a priority for Hong Kong as it is the primary pathway for teams to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) in the United Kingdom in 2019. Following the conclusion of the WCLC in 2017, the top half of teams will advance to the CWC qualification tournament in 2018.

Hong Kong (world ODI ranking 15th) is currently first on the World Cricket League Championship table, while Scotland (ranked 13th) is fourth after the tournaments second round.

Were focusing pretty heavily on the World Cricket League Championships ODI matches as they format is more conducive to our strengths at the moment than four-day cricket and they offer an opportunity for us to play in the World Cup, said Burke.  Our goal for the Series is to hold our position at the top of the WCLC table and to prepare for the upcoming World Twenty20.

Hong Kong qualified for the World Twenty20 in India in March-April 2016, and is in the same pool as Scotland, along with Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in Group B.

After the WCLC matches, two Twenty20 Internationals will be held as the Association concludes the Series with some big-hitting entertainment for the fans. The final weekend of the competition will also feature exhibition games of HKCA womens and youth cricket, showcasing the strength of the game in the SAR.

Hong Kong will revel in the opportunity to play at home for the first time in over three years, promises Burke, We have a young, exciting team, whose average age is just 20 years old. Most of these players have never had the opportunity to represent Hong Kong in front of their families and friends so this is a huge occasion for them; I expect it will be an emotional lift for the players ... Scotland is a very good side. Theyre aggressive and their batsmen like to put bowlers under pressure. The combination of their batting strength and our bowling attack is going to make for some exciting cricket. It will be a good contest between two of the strongest associate nations in world cricket.

It is great to be able to play at home. There is a definite home advantage in cricket, more so than in other sports because of the importance of the playing surface and how those surfaces differ in every country. The players are familiar with Mission Road, they play a lot of club cricket there and train there as well so there will be no excuses. We are just really excited and grateful to have this opportunity, said Burke.

Burkes sentiment was echoed by HKCA Chief Executive Officer Tim Cutler who thanked the Government for its continued support, Were hugely thankful to the Hong Kong Government and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for all of the work that they have put into Mission Road to bring it up to international standard. We now have a home for cricket and are intent on ensuring that our team, with one of the highest world rankings of any Hong Kong sport, has more opportunities to play at home to help grow the local game

William Drew Braidwoods name is a fitting choice for this historic trophy, Cutler added. Besides founding CCC, a club that welcomed members from all corners of the community, in stark contrast to the prevailing standards of the time, Braidwood is also credited with initiating discussions in 1903 to establish the first formal cricket league in Hong Kong; the competition for which the HKCA was formed to administer in 1968. Remarkable achievements by a remarkable man.

The Hong Kong Cricket Association is intent on making Mission Road the home of Hong Kong Cricket and has confirmed that all of the Braidwood Cup Series matches will feature free admission to the public areas of the ground.

The final weekends Twenty20 Festival will offer a ticketed hospitality package that will include covered seating and food and beverage but the public zones will be open and will remain free of charge.

Hong Kong will announce its squad for the Braidwood Cup Series in early January 2016.

HKCA Braidwood Cup Series - 2016

All matches will be held at Mission Road Cricket Ground.

ICC Intercontinental Cup: Thursday Sunday, 21-24 January.

ICC World Cricket League Championship: Tuesday and Thursday, 26 and 28 January.

Twenty20 Matches: Saturday Sunday, 30-31 January.

Hong Kong, HKCA, Cricket, Scotland

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