Skipper's faith in game restored by HK display
By NAZVI CAREEM
HONG KONG finished at the bottom of the batting averages at the end of a closely-fought Bowl competition, but it did not detract from skipper Pat Fordham's satisfaction at his team's performance over the weekend. After scoring a huge 103 runs in their victory over Holland before losing by five wickets to New Zealand, the territory finished last in the Bowl.
The Dutch took victory in the Bowl due to their win over the Kiwis, while India won the Plate competition. But the final positions do not reflect how close Hong Kong had actually been to winning a place in the main event, following an excellent win over star-studded India. A loss to Sri Lanka on Saturday meant Hong Kong finished bottom of their preliminary group, narrowly pipped on countback by the Lankans.
'I'm very pleased,' said Fordham. 'Winning two out of four matches we've played has got to be a good result. 'Beating India was fantastic. Every year we have played in the tournament we have beaten one of the big teams and that is one of our aims.' One week ago, Fordham was at a low ebb after Hong Kong were beaten twice by Malaysia in the Tuanku Ja'afar tournament. But the territory's results over the weekend at the Kowloon Cricket Club provided ample compensation.
'I was very disappointed after Malaysia,' he said. 'If you had talked to me then, I would have probably said I'll retire. Not only because we lost but because we played so badly. 'But this makes up for it. Cricket is a good game to play now.' Holland's victory in the Bowl, which included a stunning six-wicket victory over New Zealand, was beyond their expectations according to star batsman Nolan Clarke. Clarke, at 46 the oldest player in the event, hopes to come back next year. 'It's been great for us because we never expected to win the Bowl.
In fact, we were not so sure if we would win because Hong Kong had yet to play New Zealand. 'But we are happy we came and if invited, we would love to return next year.' Against New Zealand, Hong Kong scored 67 runs. But losing three wickets in the process proved costly in the final calculations as all three teams in the Bowl had won one match each. Rahul Sharma scored 34 for the territory without having to run between the wickets.
He faced just eight balls, hitting seven fours and one six. The only other Hong Kong batsman to reach double figures was Stewart Brew, who scored 13. Kiwi captain Rod Latham and Nick Astle both hit 32s to guide New Zealand to their required target, losing one wicket. Among the Bowl competitors, Holland led the batting averages with 52 runs. New Zealand were in second place with 44 runs while Hong Kong had 40.
India won the Plate competition with a 33-run triumph over the West Indies. The Indians finished second to South Africa in the Bradman Group semi-final matches, while West Indies were runners-up in the Sobers Group. India equalled Hong Kong's feat of scoring 103 runs in their innings after West Indies captain Richie Richardson put them in to bat.
This was done even without the services of their skipper Mohammed Azharuddin, with Sachin Tendulkar standing in as captain. Salil Ankola starred for the Indians, hitting four sixes and two fours for his 33. He was supported by an unbeaten 25 from Vinod Kambli and Sanjay Manjrekar's 21 not out. The Windies were always struggling to keep up with the run-rate, managing only 70 runs for one wicket after their five overs. Richardson continued his superb form with the bat to retire at 31. It was a remarkable tournament for Richardson. In six visits to the crease, he did not lose his wicket once.
On only one occasion did he fail to reach the 31-run target, which would have forced him to retire. Franklyn Stephenson was the West Indies' second highest scorer of the final with 20 not out with 14 runs coming from extras.
The West Indies were denied a place in the main final after their innings crumbling against England in their semi-final match.
They missed by only one run England's relatively modest total of 65.