THE greatest sporting disaster in the history of Hong Kong did not happen on the colony's playing fields, but on the South China Sea, when the P&O steamship SS Bokhara was sunk in a typhoon off Sand Island in the Pascaderes, 10 October 1892. Most of the Hong Kong Cricket Team, who were returning to the colony after the Interport match with Shanghai, were drowned. The team's only two survivors were Dr Lowson and Lieutenant Markham of the Shrophsire Light Infantry. The ship left Shanghai two days before the disaster and almost immediately ran into foul weather. The Hong Kong Telegraph described their plight. It must have been a terrifying experience: ''The certain approach of a Formosa Channel typhoon, in the blackness of the night like that must have been indeed appalling to men already worn out with thirty-six sleepless hours of tossing and battling in the raging main.'' Then three great waves hit the Bokhara and hundreds of tons of water flooded the engine-room and put out her fires. The ship's boats were swept away. The vessel became unmanageable. Soon it was all over: ''The storm-tossed Bokhara, helpless as a log in that terrible sea, had struck the reef, grinding her broadside on the rocks along her whole length.'' Fortunately for Dr Lowson, he was on deck when the ship struck. He told the China Mail how his companions ''must have been below, and were simply drowned like rats in a hole.'' ''The next sea carried me off and I knew no more until I was pitched upon the reef.'' ''Sand Island is an absolutely deserted island. We had nothing at all. I just had my pyjamah [sic] trousers and they were torn to bits.'' The 23 survivors were rescued by Chinese fishermen and brought back to Hong Kong in HMS Peacock. In total, 125 people perished.