For the second year in succession the Independent clubs showed they were a tad better than their counterparts from the two established clubs - the Hong Kong Cricket Club and the Kowloon Cricket Club - beating them by three wickets in what has now become the annual season-opener to the Sunday League competition. But the Independents - drawn from defending Sunday League champions Pakistan Association, defending Sunday Cup champions Vagabonds, Little Sai Wan and Friends - had to eke out their win yesterday at Mission Road. It took a gritty, unbeaten partnership of 52 between Jawaid Iqbal and Tabarak Dar to lift them to victory. Chasing a modest total of 145, the Independents began well, knocking off the first 45 runs with openers Ilyas Gul (32) and Azhar Illahi (20) in fine touch. But Sher Lama and Adrian Ashman turned the complexion of the match as they grabbed three and two wickets respectively and sparked a collapse. Five wickets fell for 12 runs, leaving the Independents struggling on 94 for seven before Dar and Iqbal staged the rescue act. 'It was an interesting innings from us. We began well before we fell into a hole. But thankfully we were chasing a very small total and Jawaid and Tabarak batted sensibly,' said Independents skipper Mark Burns. Iqbal was declared Man of the Match for his all-round performance that saved the day for the Independents. The Hong Kong off-spinner bowled a tight spell, conceding 23 runs from his 10 overs and took two wickets. But it was his batting which was invaluable. Coming in at nine, Iqbal scored 31 off 41 balls, including a six off Ashman. 'It was nice to see Jawaid hit Ashman over his head for six,' said Burns. The match, originally scheduled to be played at the Hong Kong Cricket Club, was moved to Mission Road after the Wong Nei Chung Gap ground was deemed unplayable due to the rain. But the weather did interrupt play yesterday, albeit briefly, seeing the game reduced to 48 overs. Clubs' XI were soon in all sorts of problems and had to thank David Mallinson and Anthony Booth for their total of 145 all out. Mallinson scored 34 while Booth was unbeaten on 32 when the innings ended in the 41st over. Vagabonds medium-pacer Butt Hussain was the chief wicket-taker, grabbing four for 34, while Iqbal chipped in with his brace. The total did not seem to be much of an obstacle, but the dismissals of Nasir Hameed, Hussain, Munir Ahmed, Burns and Mohammed Amjad for 12 runs put the Clubs in line to avenge last year's loss. However, Iqbal and Dar had other ideas.