Hong Kong T20 Blitz

Hong Kong teen Haroon Arshad the hero for Gladiators in Blitz victory over Jaguars

Defending champions Kowloon Cantons suffer their second defeat, going down to City Kaitak

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 February, 2018, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 February, 2018, 10:50pm

Teenager Haroon Arshad was given the ball for the final over against a team who needed 15 runs for victory and were averaging much more than that in the previous few overs.

The pressure on the Hong Kong player was intense. Defeat would effectively end Galaxy Gladiators Lantau’s hopes and he was being relied upon by skipper Kumar Sangakkara to ensure their opponents Hung Hom JD Jaguars would fail in their bid to chase a record 229.

The 18-year-old repaid the faith put in him by bowling a tight over and claiming the crucial wicket of free-hitting Roelof van der Merwe to give Gladiators a six-run victory and inflict on Jaguars their first defeat of the tournament.

In the other match, City Kaitak beat defending champions Kowloon Cantons by six wickets.

“I was a bit nervous but I was told before that I would bowl the last over so I was mentally prepared. Basically the guys told me to bowl straight and full and it swung on a couple of balls that helped me get wickets,” said Arshad, who took four for 48 in four overs to win the man of the match award.

“It was a relief to get Van der Merwe out, I was just going according to the plan I had in mind.”

Gladiators scored a record 228 off their 20 overs, the highest score in Blitz history, beating Cantons’ 222. Sangakkara scored 92, Anton Devcich hit 56 and Balal Muhammad 44 to set Jaguars a daunting target.

But Jaguars showed earlier in the tournament that they were adept at chasing, no matter how high the score. And it appeared that they had the measure of the Gladiators bowlers as Van der Merwe led an onslaught of sixes and fours to score 75, supported by Darren Sammy (33), Johan Botha (29) and Riki Wessels (37).

Arshad, however, got Van der Merwe in his final over, having earlier bowled a wide, to help Gladiators to victory.

“Under pressure, Imran [Asif] and Arshad were just outstanding,” said Sangakkara. “That’s what you like coming into tournaments like this. You try not to expose the local players to too much pressure but the way [Arshad] reacted shows he has a lot of character.

“He trusted his ability. You bowl the guy who you think will be best in that situation. Some of the senior bowlers were going for a few runs so for a youngster to see that and bowl like he did was just very impressive.”

Gladiators, Jaguars and City Kaitak go into the fifth day of the event with two wins and one defeat each but for Cantons, their task is much harder after their second loss.

Cantons’ powerful batting line-up failed to fire, losing wickets early to score only 127 for seven, with captain Babar Hayat being run out for 48.

Kaitak started their chase nervously losing, Kinchit Shah and Anshuman Rath early. Once Pakistan’s Sohail Tanvir, who had a great outing with the ball earlier on with two for 17 off four overs, came to the crease Kaitak settled into their run chase and overhauled Cantons’ total in the 16.1 overs.

Sohail scored 46 off 29 balls and Ravi Bopara hit 33.

“It’s not a wicket on which you can play shots, the new-ball bowlers were a bit difficult to play but we knew that as long as the batters could stay at the wicket, it would be easier and that’s what they did,” said Kaitak captain Rayad Emrit.

“We are on a high at the moment but we have a very important game tomorrow which could determine if we to go through or not. We want to build on this win, it’s a short and compact tournament and we want to continue this momentum.”

Kaitak will back up for a morning match for the second time in the tournament but Emrit said it’s the nature of the game.

“It’s difficult to play in the afternoon and then come back in the morning and play again but we expect that because of the way the tournament is. We’ll try to get a good night’s rest and come back and play well again.”

Kaitak face Gladiators in the last pool match for both teams while Jaguars take on Hong Kong Island United.