Hong Kong T20 Blitz

‘They’re all talking about the Hong Kong T20 Blitz’ – players glad to be back as Jaguars beat Kaitak in opener

West Indian Rayad Emrit says the event has grown in stature with overseas cricketers eager to play in the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 11:02pm

Cali-Mex Hung Hom JD Jaguars won the opening match of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz on Tuesday, beating last year's runners-up City Kaitak by six wickets – but for players from both sides, it was just good to be back playing in a tournament that has grown in stature over the past year.

West Indies’ Rayad Emrit, listed as captain of Kaitak for the game, said the Hong Kong tournament has been on the lips of players around the world.

“Definitely a lot of guys in the Caribbean talk about coming here to play in the Blitz,” said Emrit, who admitted one of his biggest issues on Tuesday was getting used to the cold weather. “Around the world, people are talking about Hong Kong and, you know, the tournament is going to get bigger as long as the international players come and support the Blitz. It could be even bigger next year.

“There’s definitely competition to play in Hong Kong and as long as the players are available they will want to come over.”

Jaguars’ victorious captain Kinchit Shah is teammates with two-time World Cup-winning captain Darren Sammy as well as Australian Ben Laughlin – winner of the Big Bash League with Adelaide Strikers last week.

His conversations with overseas players also indicate an eagerness to play in Hong Kong.

“They think it’s gone up in status to an international level and they want to come back,” said Shah. “They find it really competitive and standards are going up.”

Shah was in an upbeat mood on Tuesday after leading his side of international stars and local players to victory.

Putting Kaitak into bat on a tricky wicket turned out to be a masterstroke as Jaguars restricted their opponents to 132 for six from 20 overs. Hong Kong batsman Anshuman Rath only managed six runs while Scotland’s Kyle Coetzer was out for two as man-of-the-match Laughlin and Johan Botha snared two wickets each for Jaguars.

Kaitak’s Aizaz Khan hit the first half-century of the tournament with his 52 while Waqas Barkat made 30 not out.

Jaguars needed 17.4 overs to reach their target, with Sammy hitting a six off the final ball as his side totalled 138 for four. Hong Kong’s Nizakat Khan top-scored for Jaguars with 48 off 38 balls.

“The wicket was quite fresh and there was a little bit of frost so we thought there might be something in it and tried to exploit what we can,” said Shah. “And we got three wickets in the first six overs, which was what we were looking for.

“And from then on, we wanted to squeeze them down the order, put pressure on them and get more dot balls and a low score.”

Kaitak’s opening bowler Sohail Tanvir was in fine form, grabbing one wicket for 20 runs off four overs but his efforts were not enough to prevent the Jaguars from overhauling what was always going to be an easy target.

“We were probably 25 to 30 runs too short,” said Emrit. “When we started the wicket was not in the best of conditions, but it’s still early and there four more games to go to give us a chance to bounce back.”

Emrit gave away three wides in his three overs, which cost 25 runs, and scored five not out with the bat.

“I’m cold but I’m getting there,” he said. “It’s my first game in a while and hopefully I’ll be hitting my straps for the next game.

“It’s a small ground and you’d expect a score of more than 170 or 180 but it’s a learning experience for us and we will get used to it.”

Kaitak will have little time to recover as they face Hong Kong Island United in the first game at 10am on Wednesday. Defending champions Kowloon Cantons take the field in the afternoon for their first match, against Galaxy Gladiators Lantau.

“There really not enough time for analysis or debriefing, it’s just a question of getting up bright and early and getting straight into our stride,” said Kaitak batsman Rath.