Hong Kong T20 Blitz
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PThe Hung Hom JD Jaguars celebrate winning the Hong Kong T20 Blitz 2018. Photos: Ike Li / Ike Images

Big-hitting Hung Hom JD Jaguars beat Galaxy Gladiators Lantau in Hong Kong T20 Blitz final thriller

Winning team hit 200 off 20 overs at Mission Road before Gladiators fall six runs short in mammoth run chase despite Kumar Sangakkara’s heroics

There was a point during the Galaxy Gladiators Lantau’s pursuit of the 201 target they were set in the final of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz on Sunday when it looked like Kumar Sangakkara was going to grab the headlines.

But a batting masterclass from the Sri Lankan great was overshadowed in the end by Darren Sammy’s match-clinching spell with the ball as the Hung Hom JD Jaguars claimed the 2018 title after winning by six runs.

Hong Kong’s own Nizakat Khan played a huge role, too, contributing 93 to the cause for Hung Hom, who won their first Blitz in a thrilling finale that was high on skill and drama.
The Gladiators pile up another run as they chase down their target.

“I’ve had a pretty quiet tournament and 48 runs was my best effort,” said Khan. “I really wanted to do well in the final and I’m happy that I was able to do that.

“It was such a great experience playing with and against legends such as Sangakkara, Darren Sammy and others. I have learned a lot and hopefully this kind of success will help me in my career.”

Sangakkara’s contribution throughout the week was acknowledged when he was named player of the tournament. His performance in the final was a display of scintillating technique, which dazzled the capacity Mission Road crowd, and some of his fellow players.

All they could do was shake their heads, helpless as the tournament’s star turn gave a consummate demonstration of his class. The Jaguars’ fielders could do little to stem the tide.

Indeed, leaning against a hoarding at the field’s edge as the umpires fumbled for a replacement ball after the 40-year-old had dispatched yet another Kookaburra beyond the Mission Road complex, fielder Nadeem Ahmed turned to the crowd and uttered: “Different level. That’s why he’s a legend.”
The Jaguars celebrate their victory.

When Sangakkara finally fell for 76 to add to his previous knocks of 94 not out, 92, 35 and 14, after slicing an effort into the hands of a grateful Sammy in the covers off Kinchit Shah’s bowling, the Jaguars sensed the tide of this contest was turning in their favour. The Gladiators never quite recovered from his loss.

“Overall it was a great tournament and final,” Sangakkara said. “We knew it would be a tough final and I think we did well to restrict them to 200 after their good start.

“But there was not enough impetus from us towards the end, at around the 14th or 15th over and we didn’t get enough runs.”

There was an element of revenge for the Jaguars who fell to Lantau in group play on Friday in arguably the tournament’s best match. On that day, 222 wasn’t enough to catch the Gladiators who notched a tournament-record 228.
Hung Hom’s batsmen touch gloves on their way to 200 runs.

After setting a chase of 201, the Jaguars were cautiously optimistic that they had done enough to win on Sunday. But with an in-form Sangakkara in their way, it was far from a forgone conclusion.

Khan had just left the field after the end of Hung Hom’s innings. “200,” he said, “is a good total for us. If we bowl well, we can defend that.”

They bowled and fielded well to stunt the Jaguars’ early progress – a tight start restricted Sangakkara to a relatively modest 10 runs from the opening four overs. It was clear that the Jaguars bowling attack had done their homework on how they wanted to attack the opener.

But by the seventh over, Sangakkara was warming to his task, stepping up the run rate with his half-century in sight. Yet it was still difficult to call the winner at that point.

The Jaguars finally made the breakthrough in the 10th over when opener Balal Muhammad was given out stumped for 33, ending a 101-run partnership with Sangakkara.
The prize presentation after the final.

His replacement Cameron Delport fell soon after as the Jaguars began to turn the screw. But still Sangakkara was smashing boundaries and pushing the run rate along at a fearsome clip – he hit a tournament high 21 sixes throughout the week.

When he did finally fall, the Jaguars and their supporters celebrated wildly sensing the last impediment to their victory was gone.

The great man’s departure precipitated something of a collapse as the sixes dried up and momentum swung towards the Jaguars. Despite a spirited effort from James Franklin, the chase was to prove a feat too Herculean for the Gladiators.

Sammy, one of the tournament’s other star names, sealed the win for the Jaguars.

“We knew we had to get Sangakkara out for us to win,” said winning captain Kinchit Shah. “It is an amazing feeling to win, this is the best tournament in Hong Kong and to win it, it’s something that still sinking in.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: jaguars grab T20 Blitz crown in a thriller