Dubai: A 174-run partnership between Hong Kong openers Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan gave some mighty scares to the Indian camp and fans, but the Men in Blue fought back to clinch a 26-run win in their Group A match at the Dubai International Stadium here on Tuesday.
With the win, India registered their first win of the prestigious tournament.
Earlier, Hong Kong won the toss and asked India to bat first. The Indian openers, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma (23) and Shikhar Dhawan (127), gave a good start to the Men in Blue.
Dhawan played the role of an aggressor, whacking boundaries off Hong Kong bowlers erring lengths. Spinner Ehsan Khan (two for 65) provided the first breakthrough to Hong Kong, accounting for Rohit's wicket.
Ambati Rayudu (60) then joined Dhawan and the duo started milking runs through boundaries. The 32-year-old left-hander from Delhi showed no mercy to the Hong Kong bowlers as he batted carefree to romp off to a half-century.
On the other hand, Rayudu played the second hand and helped Dhawan to ensure that India's scoreboard kept ticking. The two batsmen shared a huge 116-run partnership before Ehsan Nawaz (one for 50) separated the duo. Dhawan continued to play attacking cricket and registered his 14th ODI century.
Dinesh Karthik (33) also gave good support to him and, at one point, it seemed that India would cross the 300-run mark.
However, off-spinner Kinchit Shah (three for 39), Hong Kong's standout bowler, scalped the dangerman Dhawan, which effectively stalled India's innings.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed with the bat, as he walked back to the pavilion without scoring, only managing to feather an edge to wicketkeeper Scott McKechnie off Ehsan Nawaz.
The lower-order also failed to make runs, with Kedar Jadhav (28*) waging a lone battle in the end and helping India to reach 285, a score that was well below the expectations especially when the top order had given a good start.
Chasing a target of 286 runs to win, Hong Kong made a cautious start to their innings, coupled with India's misfielding chaos.
Slowly and steadily, Rath (73) and Nizakat (92) made runs and piled pressure on the Indian bowlers, that had an inexperienced line-up, barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar and spinning duo Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who were struggling to pick up wickets.
With Hong Kong reaching the 100-run mark without losing any wicket, tensions and a pall of gloom descended amongst the Indian fans and the dressing room at the Dubai International Stadium.
With bowlers struggling to bowl tight lines and take wickets, the Hong Kong openers continued to make merry and it seemed that an upset win was on course.
However, much to everyone's relief, Kuldeep drew first blood for the Men in Blue at the 34th over, accounting for Rath, who holed out at extra cover.
In the next over, Nizakat was sent back to the pavilion by debutant Khaleel Ahmed, who trapped him in front to end the former's innings with a patient but well-made 92 runs.
Hong Kong's middle and lower orders then frittered away the advantage set up by the openers as Indian bowlers, led by Khaleel and Chahal, continued to get breakthroughs at regular intervals.
From 174 for 0, Hong Kong lost their way and huffed and puffed past the 250-run mark, eventually finishing at 259 for 8 in 50 overs.
The win would give India a big relief after the mighty scare posed by the Hong Kong openers.
However, there would be some concerns in the camp about their bowlers and the fielders, particularly, who let down with their performance today.
For India, Khaleel and Chahal stood out for the Men in Blue, scalping three for 48 and three for 46 respectively.
Kuldeep took two for 42. Dhawan was adjudged Man of the Match for his brilliant innings. India will now lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan at the same venue on Wednesday, the most-awaited encounter which is expected to be a cracker of a match in this year's Asia Cup.