Smart century puts Hong Kong in driver's seat
A record-breaking knock from skipper Tim Smart helped put Hong Kong in an impregnable position at the end of the second day in the ACC Fast Track Countries Tournament against Malaysia at the Hong Kong Cricket Club..
Smart hit a magnificent 194 as the home side amassed a massive 409 for nine, before declaring at the fall of the captain's wicket in the post-lunch session. Holding a commanding lead of 298, the SAR pressed home the advantage as Malaysia stumbled to 156 for five in their second innings - losing key batsmen Suresh Navaratnam and Rohan Selvaratnam in the last couple of overs before the close.
'Hopefully we can take the remaining five wickets quickly,' said Smart, who became the highest run-scorer for Hong Kong in a three-day game.
It has been a marathon effort from opener Smart. He has been in the field these past two days and has not put a foot wrong. His first century for Hong Kong could not have come at a better time.
'I guess this is my best knock as far as concentration goes. It was a matter of 'gutsing' it out for awhile and consolidating on a pitch that was doing a bit. We did well to bowl them out for 111 and there was no point in forfeiting that effort,' said a delighted Smart.
His 398-ball knock lasted 486 minutes and contained 24 fours and three sixes. It surpassed the previous high of 169 made by Nigel Stearns in 1984. Smart fell nine runs short of becoming the top-scorer for Hong Kong in any form of the game - Alex French making 203 not out against the Maldives in the 2002 ACC Trophy.
But statistics apart, what will be remembered of Smart's super innings was his ability to keep his mind on the job - of giving Hong Kong a reasonable lead and a chance to win their second successive match in the five-team tournament.
Smart found a valuable ally in Ilyas Gull as the pair took Hong Kong from a precarious 32 for three to 221 before Gull was caught behind for 82. Not satisfied with this 189-run liaison, Smart then partnered Tabarak Dar as the pair put on a further 133 runs for the fifth wicket. Dar was dismissed for a sound 56. Another 48 runs was added with Najeeb Amar to take Hong Kong past the 400 mark.
Malaysia will be ruing the fact that they decided to take first lease of the track after winning the toss on Friday. The wicket has eased now, but in the first hour on the opening day, it assisted the local bowlers hugely.
Apart from being dismissed so cheaply, Malaysia also conceded 40 of their overs (teams can bat 90 overs in the first innings) to the Hong Kong innings. And Smart and company made the most of it.