HONG KONG'S independent sides have received a glowing tribute from Peter Slack, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, who thanked them for their vital contribution to the local game. Unlike the two established clubs on the local cricket scene - the Hong Kong Cricket Club and the Kowloon Cricket Club - the independent sides have an uphill struggle financially, and lack the facilities to attract players. Despite this battle against all odds, the independent sides matched the two major clubs when the 1993/94 season's crop of trophies were dished around at the KCC, at cricket's annual awards night, last Saturday. A notable feat, which pleased Slack greatly. ''It is very nice to see the awards being spread around. I'm very grateful to the players who play for the independent sides.'' The ''spread'' of awards around the clubs, is an indication of the growing maturity and strength of the independent clubs in Hong Kong. ''A total of 170 awards are to be given tonight to 18 different teams,'' said Slack, last Saturday night in his welcome speech, happy with the fact that HKCC and KCC had been challenged for the winners' spoils. At present, there are 13 independent sides in Hong Kong. The establishment meanwhile provides 11 teams, the HKCC having six teams in both leagues while KCC have five. The most popular award of the night was when Vagabonds received their trophy for winning the Rothmans Cup - having beaten another independent side, Little Sai Wan, in the final. A sign of the times? Slack, and everyone else involved in the promotion of cricket locally, will certainly hope so.