Elegant duo carry Vagabonds into Cup semi-final
Sharma, Sambhus show glimpse of possible future for Hong Kong
The fairytale run of SCC Vagabonds in the Sunday Cup continued as they stormed into the semi-finals with a 92-run victory over KCC Infidels at Mission Road yesterday.
Vagabonds who have been cast into the role of the condemned man given a last-minute stay of execution - they lost in the qualifying round to Pakistan Association Green but were then given a reprieve by the Hong Kong Cricket Association who disqualified PAG on the grounds of fielding an unregistered player - will now meet double-chasing Scorpions.
SAR coach Robin Singh who is in town for a brief stint, and was watching national squad members at a practice match at the Hong Kong Cricket Club, might have been better off if he had wandered down to watch the Vagabonds in action. For in their midst they have two players who could one day represent Hong Kong with distinction.
Ankur Sharma and Rahul Sambhus are two young Indians who have been in town for close to four years which is the ICC residency benchmark. And yesterday, they showed they had the flair to follow in the footsteps of another great Indian to have represented Hong Kong - and as fate would have it, both their names taken together add up to Rahul Sharma.
If batting has been the bane of Hong Kong cricket in recent times - Singh knows this only too well - Sharma and Sambhus have the promise to become two batsmen who can become the cornerstone of SAR batting.
They are both wristy strokemakers with elegant style. Sambhus is 24 while Sharma is 26. If Hong Kong cricket is serious about the future, young talent like these two should be nurtured.
Yesterday, they set the foundation for the huge score. After openers Mark Burns and Parameswaran Chandrasekhar had begun slowly, Sambhus first, and then Sharma, stepped on the accelerator. But both were lucky to get going. Sambhus survived a loud appeal for lbw after offering no shot to a delivery from Steve Roberts and then Sharma was dropped by Damien Kelleher when he was 23 with the unlucky bowler being Moazzam Ayub.
They did not need second chances as they made Infidels pay dearly for these lapses. Sambhus, who was dropped before entering double figures, went on to smack 58 which included a six and five fours. Sharma was even more adventurous as he hit six sixes and six fours in his 90 which came off 56 balls.
When they were both dismissed, the score was a healthy 244 for four in the 45th over. The relief at getting rid of them was soon forgotten as Tauseef Bukhari and Rajesh Nanda continued to plunder runs. The pair raised the last 50 of the Vags' innings in just 16 balls. Nanda's cameo of 33 came off 11 balls and had three sixes and three fours. Bukhari's knock was more sedate, but equally precious as Vags reached a formidable total.
'Everybody chipped in and shared the responsibility today. The plan was for all the batsmen to score at least 30 runs and it worked. It was very pleasing to see the whole team contributing,' said happy Vagabonds captain Bruce Borges.
Although missing key left-arm strike bowler Neeraj Chopra, Vagabonds got off to a dream start when in the second over of the innings, Mark Burns grabbed two wickets from his first three deliveries to put Infidels on the back foot on two for two.
Bowling with plenty of zip, Burns moving the ball away from the right-handers, induced Ray Brewster to cut his first ball straight to point where Sharma took a superb diving catch. Then two balls later, he got one to move away slightly and Courtney Kruger flashing at it, edged to Sambhus at first slip.
Ravi Sujanani decided that attack was the best way to counter and hit a quick-fire 40. But going for one shot too many, Sujanani was well caught at low down by Prakash Chakravarti at extra cover off Ian Beck and Infidels were three for 64. And when stand-in captain Damien Kelleher was out in Beck's next over, caught at wide mid-off, the writing was on the wall.
But Anthony Barnett refused to give up, and he hit a well-compiled 102 which included eight massive sixes, three of them coming off one over from Gopal Balakrishna. Together with Ghulam Mustafa, Barnett put on 71 runs for the seventh wicket. But it was a lost cause.
Burns, Beck, Bukhari and Borges - a name tailor-made for a law firm - shared eight wickets. Sambhus showed he could turn his wrist with the ball, too. He enticed Imran Farcy to step out for a big hit and a sharply turning leg-break deceived the batsman for wicket-keeper Brad Tarr to wrap up the innings.