'I was nervous but I had a gut feeling I would do it'
Vagabonds won their first silverware in seven years when they were crowned Sunday Cup champions at the Hong Kong Cricket Club yesterday. And the crowning was studded with many gems of performances which stalwart Phil Glenwright said embodied the spirit of the club.
'We may not have fancy clubhouses, but we have spirit. This win means a lot to the club because we have come together as a unit and becomes friends,' said Glenwright, the only survivor of the 1994 Cup-winning team.
Their opponents in the knockout tournament, the finale to the 2000-01 season, were KCC Hornets. The Kowloon Cricket Club does have a fancy clubhouse. They had also banded their best cricketers together for the competition in a bid to salvage what has generally been a disappointing season for them.
But a gem of an innings from Mohammed Shabbir put paid to their hopes of lifting the premier title. He strode on to the pitch in circumstances matching the gloomy and chill atmosphere at the Wong Nei Chung Gap Road club with Vagabonds struggling at 177 for six chasing 263 to win.
He faced a steep hill to climb. Vagabonds needed 83 runs with a little under nine overs remaining. But Shabbir was more than equal to the task as he set about the bowling with gusto, hitting an unbeaten 47 off 26 deliveries.
'I was nervous but I had a gut feeling that I would be able to do it,' said Shabbir after his brilliant knock robbed victory from the grasp of the KCC outfit.
The butterflies in his stomach were quickly settled when he lifted KCC fast bowler Faizal Khan for two sixes over the extra cover and long-on boundaries respectively. Vagabonds captain Mark Burns was all smiles knowing that Shabbir had taken his 'bully bat' to the crease.
Built like a pocket-Atlas, Shabbir certainly kicked sand into the face of all the KCC bowlers as he pummelled them mainly over the long-off boundary. His knock contained four sixes and two fours all from the meat of his bat. Shabbir received good support from namesake Shabbir Ahmed who hit a breezy 27 in 14 balls.
Together the pair put on 58 for the eighth wicket and when Ahmed was dismissed leg before to Jawaid Iqbal, the target had been reduced to a gettable 12 runs from 15 deliveries.
Ahmed's replacement Mark Bulusu was not going to hang around. He picked Ravi Sujanani over the backward square leg boundary to bring victory up in style and with a handsome six balls left.
'It was a great effort by the lads. We only won two games all of last seaon and now we have lifted the Cup. It has been a total team effort,' said skipper Burns.
It certainly was. Alex Price took three wickets and led the bowling attack who all contributed. Most of the KCC batsmen made good starts - Damian Green, Tim Hield, Ray Brewster, T. R. Kalyanraman, Vijay Karnani and Sher Lama all getting into the 30s.
While Shabbir may have stolen the limelight with his explosive batting, Burns led from the front. His superb fielding dismissed three batsmen, including a brilliant two-handed diving catch at mid-off to send dangerman Tim Hield packing.
Not satisfied with his Jonty Rhodes impersonation on the field, Burns then batted like the South African too, running strongly between the wickets in a display which shored up the batting in the key middle overs.
Three wickets by Mohanna Marzook in nine balls left Vagabonds precariously placed on 56 for three. Glenwright and Brad Tarr patiently set about re-building their damaged challenge, putting on 40 runs in 13 overs before Glenwright was dismissed, caught on the boundary trying to force the pace.
In the next 13 overs, Vagabonds added a further 68 runs with Burns and Tarr putting the pressure on the fielders with superb running between the wickets. Not surprisingly Burns' invaluable knock of 38 comprised 24 singles.
And it was also not surprising that the game partnership ended with a run-out. A hesitation saw Tarr beaten by a throw to the bowler's end from Hield fielding at midwicket.
Burns followed soon after and thing looked bleak for Vagabonds - until Shabbir walked out into the middle with his bully bat.
'It was a great effort from him. He has stuck with us even when things were not going our way last season,' said the elated Burns, paying tribute to Shabbir. And yesterday, Vagabonds reaped the rewards.