Odd couple strike for Scorpions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2006, 12:00am

Eagleson and Lalchandani shine with the ball, claiming five wickets each to clinch Sunday Cup final and complete double

If there ever was a sucker punch, then it was that delivered by bowlers Ryan Eagleson and Gopal Lalchandani, who combined superbly to knock KCC Templars off their feet and sweep HKCC Scorpions to a remarkable two-run victory in the Sunday Cup final at a soggy Hong Kong Cricket Club yesterday.

And if there was ever an odd couple, then it is Eagleson and Lalchandani. Eagleson plays for Ireland, bowls fast and is in his prime at 32. Lalchandani played for Hong Kong in the distant past, bowls gentle off breaks and at 60, still believes he is in his prime.

The pair swept through an inept Templars batting line-up who only had themselves to blame for losing a match that was theirs for the taking after rain had reduced the target to 84 runs in 26 overs.

From the time skipper Afzaal Haider called correctly and put the HKCC side into bat, they had their hand on the tiller, but it was all thrown away, first by some poor ground fielding which gave away at least 30 extra runs and then by a shoddy approach to batting.

The Scorpions kept their discipline in the field superbly with tight bowling from the odd couple - each grabbing five wickets - and they were backed up by the fielders who took every chance.

'We just put pressure on them and they buckled under it by playing some silly shots,' said Scorpions skipper Martin Lever. 'It was a great all-round team effort and it is nice to win the cup, especially as we were without Phil [DeFreitas] and there were a few people who were saying that we won the league because of him.'

Ex-England international DeFreitas played a huge role in Scorpions' march to the League title this season. But they completed the double without him as he returned home. Instead Scorpions called back Lalchandani for the cup and the grandaddy of local cricket, playing his 46th consecutive season in Hong Kong, showed he can still rise to the big occasion.

Lalchandani proved it with deeds as he grabbed five for 27, and more importantly kept his nerve when Lever threw him the ball with the opposition needing just two runs to win.

On strike was last man Khuram Shahzad, 16, whose nickname is 'Big Bird' because he stands almost 1.96 metres in his socks. Shahzad shows much promise with the ball - yesterday he was almost unplayable as he took the first four Scorpions wickets to fall. But as a batsman, he certainly has a long way to go.

Youth against experience and there was only one outcome. When Shahzad prodded forward uncertainly and the ball flew to silly mid-off where Lever took the catch at his third attempt, Scorpions were celebrating a fantastic come-from-behind victory.

'I was worried about coming on at that stage. It is not easy coming on to bowl with just two runs needed,' said a disbelieving Lalchandani. But he is a man for a crisis. Three seasons ago Scorpions defeated Pakistan Association to win the Sunday Cup and the man who was their right at the end, shaping destiny was Lalchandani. On that occasion, he did it with bat in hand.

Earlier in the day, Scorpions were indebted to Simon Laveau, Nick Gavin-Brown and Toby Brown for pushing their score to 144 and respectability especially after being 26 for five at one stage.

Rain during the lunch break saw play delayed for 45 minutes leading to the target being revised to 97 off 30 overs. This was again revised to 84 from 26 overs and it seemed plain sailing for Templars. But they didn't take into account the odd couple coming up trumps.