Zubair's whirlwind knock saves Hornets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2004, 12:00am

A swashbuckling innings of 48 by Mohammed Zubair coupled with a courageous captain's knock of 61 by Graham Jardine gave KCC Hornets an unlikely two-wicket victory over HKCC Optimists in the first round of the Perrier Sunday Cup yesterday.

Zubair joined his skipper at the crease with another 86 runs needed off eight overs and with only Devang Shah remaining in the clubhouse. Throwing caution to the wind, he took the attack to the bowlers, who until then had done a fine job of defending a sizeable total of 269.

Zubair hit his first ball from Mark Winstanley into the woods skirting the Kowloon Cricket Club. Winstanley must have heaved a sigh of relief as it was the last ball of his over. After getting the strike in the next over, Zubair hoisted the first two deliveries from Optimists captain Paul Watkins over the boundary. Three sixes from his first three balls set the tone for his match-winning innings.

It lasted 20 balls. By the end he had scored 48 - five sixes and a four - and had helped KCC keep alive their hopes of the double this season (adding the Cup to the Sunday League title they have already secured). Zubair's big hitting, which was more than complimented by some sweetly struck boundaries by Jardine, saw them home with two overs to spare.

'It is just unbelievable. We should never have won that. At eight down and with 86 needed off the last eight, I thought it was over. But Zubs [Zubair] was just magnificent. He has kept our double hopes alive,'' said Jardine.

If Zubair was the sword that laid waste the Optimists bowling, Jardine then surely must be the anvil on which it was forged. The pugnacious left-hander, enjoying one of his finest seasons with the bat, played responsibly after coming in at the fall of Roy Lamsam's wicket with the score on 104 for five in the 26th over.

The situation went from bad to worse when anchor and opener Rahul Sharma was caught and bowled by leg spinner Malcolm Costain two overs later. Having induced Sharma to play a rare false stroke, Costain dived forward and plucked the ball centimetres off the ground to set off celebrations.

With Sharma gone, Optimists could have been pardoned for thinking the match was in the bag. They were in sight of pulling off a remarkable victory and giving a large number of players in the Hong Kong national squad an enforced two-week break.

But Jardine was not finished. Having just heard the news that he was included in a 21-strong squad preparing for this summer's dates with destiny - the Asia Cup and the ACC Trophy - Jardine knuckled down to securing one end.

He received fine support from Ray Brewster and Afzaal Haider, but when these two had departed, the task still seemed insurmountable. Zubair, however, refused to give up bashing the bowlers all over - in particular Watkins who conceded 41 runs from his last three overs.

Meanwhile defending Cup champions HKC Scorpions moved into the next round after beating Matchless by 228 runs. Also triumphant yesterday were Vagabonds, who defeated Little Sai Wan and Pakistan Association, who beat KCC Wasps.