Hung Hom JD Jaguars soar to Blitz success

Cricket - T20 Blitz
February 13, 2018 Updated: February 13, 2018

HONG KONG—Hung Hom JD Jaguars have emerged as the champions of HKT20 Blitz 2018 after they defeated Galaxy Gladiators Lantau by 6 runs in the tournament finals on Sunday February11, 2018. The match ebbed and flowed throughout; until the very last over, from which Lantau needed 22 runs, there was no obvious or consistent indication of the tournament victor.

Having been asked to bat first by Galaxy Gladiators Lantau’s captain, Kumar Sangakkara, Hung Hom JD Jaguars got off to a steady start to their innings. The team recovered from their relatively early losses of their local captain Kinchit Shah and overseas wicketkeeper RikiWessels, courtesy of a match-winning knock from one of their opening batsmen, Nizakat Khan. Nizakat, termed as the Prince of Hong Kong Cricket, scored 93 runs off 52 balls, and his man-of-the-match innings was also ably complemented by cameos from the international incumbents, Johan Botha and Daren Sammy.

“It’s just a number,” said Nizakat when asked about narrowly missing out on a ton. “That I have contributed to my team’s win is much more important to me.”

The men in pink reached a team score of 200/7 from their allotted 20 overs, and this was after facing the threatening bowling spells by the bowlers of Galaxy Gladiators Lantau particularly Imran Arif. Arif took four important wickets in this year’s tournament finale, and in doing so, also became the leading wicket taker of the tournament. In reply, Galaxy Gladiators Lantau’s opening batsmen stitched together a partnership of 101, which lasted more than half their innings. Once the first wicket of Balal Muhammad was claimed by Botha after 10.4 overs though, Hung Hom JD Jaguars took wickets at regular intervals, while the opposition skipper Sangakkara proved he was a class apart by producing his third consecutive half century.

“It was a great tournament and final,” said Sangakkara after the match, as he collected the man of the tournament and team runners-up prizes. Following Sangakkara’s dismissal to an unscripted over from Hung Hom JD Jaguars’ skipper, Kinchit Shah, Galaxy Gladiators found it difficult to reinforce themselves over the match. Attempts by international players Cameron Delport, Anton Devcich, Jade Dernback and James Franklin proved futile, and as Sangakkara noted, there was “not enough impetus towards the latter end of their innings to reach the target by the “Roaring Jags.”

Although the score of 200 was competitive, it paled in comparison to the target of 229 set by Galaxy Gladiators Lantau, when the same two teams played against each other in the group stages two days prior. What helped the Hung Hom JD Jaguars emerge as tournament victors was their armour of world-class all-rounders. The multi-talented pink players allowed their team management to consider countless combinations and contingency plans for crisis situations, and it proved to be a defining factor.

With a unanimous positive response received from team players, owners, and of course, fans, the tournament would be earmarked as a huge success.

In the 3rd/4th playoff on Sunday morning, Kowloon Cantons had a rather easy victory against Hong Kong Island United. HKIU batted first and could only reach the modest total of 166 in their 20 overs. Kowloon Cantons passed the total for the loss of only 2 wickets in 10.1 overs.

Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka, skipper of Galaxy Gladiators, finished as top scorer hitting 311 runs in his 5 innings – an average of 77.75 per innings. While Imran Arif, also of Galaxy Gladiators, was the top wicket-taker, with 5 wickets from 5 matches at an average of 13.75 per wicket.

The statistics of viewers across television and the Internet already looks highly encouraging, and fans are already looking forward to next year’s tournament, at Mission Road Ground.

 Suraj Sam Samtani is a freelance writer and reporter for international media and companies across the globe, and is also an academic and personal coach.