11 Feb 2018

Hung Hom JD Jaguars triumph in thrilling final


By Jonathan Stott

In a final that enshrined all of the best aspects of what has been an incredible tournament Hung Hom Jaguars gained revenge for their group-stage loss to Galaxy Gladiators Lantau, with Hong Kong stars Nizakat Khan and Kinchit Shah playing crucial roles, and Khan being rewarded with the man of the match trophy.

These two teams put on 450 runs between them on Friday, but in the final a score of 200/7 proved enough for the Jaguars to defend, as the Gladiators fell 6 runs short, despite the incredible efforts of captain and player of the tournament Kumar Sangakkara (76 from 47).

As has been the case throughout the week the Jaguars, captained by Shah, were able to rely on all of their overseas stars to chip in with valuable contributions when it really mattered.  Daren Sammy helped Shah to marshal his bowlers in the second half of the Gladiators chase, and it was Sammy himself who took responsibility for ensuring the Jaguars put on such an imposing total after Imran Arif had removed the well-set pair of Khan (93 from 52) and Johan Botha (36 from 22) with consecutive deliveries. 

Khan had played impeccably at the top of the order and although Shah (9) and Riki Wessels (5) fell cheaply Sammy smashed a quick-fire 21 from 15 deliveries to set up the victory score, before falling late on to the bowling of Hong Kong youngster Arsham Mohammad.  Sammy’s wicket was the 18-year-old’s 10th of the competition, as he finished as the leading wicket-taker.

For a long time it seemed as though the Gladiators were in control of the chase, and whilst tournament top-scorer and player of the tournament Sangakkara remained at the crease the Gladiators were favourites. 

Sagakkara had survived an excellent early examination from another young Hong Kong paceman Kyle Christie, only playing in the tournament after answering a call for players via Facebook.   However, by the end of the powerplay Sangakkara was well in to his stride and looked set to follow up his two previous innings of 92 and 94* by setting up victory in the final.  Gladiators were certainly right up with the rate to the point of losing their second wicket, Cameron Delport falling for just 6, as they reached 120/2 at the end of the 12th over. 

During the next two overs – Botha’s last and Sammy’s first - only 13 runs were scored. With the run-rate climbing rapidly the pressure on Sangakkara was mounting and off the fourth delivery of the 15th over he mis-cued a Shah delivery right down Sammy’s throat, as he aimed to smash the 8th maximum of his innings.  With Sangakkara back in the sheds, it seemed for all the world that the contest was over, but the Kiwi pairing of Anton Devcich and James Franklin were not prepared to die wondering.

After Jade Dernbach fell to Sammy for just one, Devcich and Franklin went on the attack in the 18th over, smashing Christie for 21 and leaving Gladiators requiring only 31 from the final two overs.

Ordinarily, on a ground with relatively short boundaries, 31 might have seemed eminently achievable from 12 balls.  However, those deliveries were due to be bowled by last week’s Big Bash League winner Ben Laughlin and the main man himself, Sammy. 

Laughlin used all of his experience to restrict the Gladiators to just 9 off the 19th over, and after Sammy only conceded two singles from the first three deliveries of the final over, the game and the tournament was effectively done and dusted. 

Before the match the Blitz Tournament Director Max Abbott had told me all he wanted was a close finish.  Well, he certainly got his wish, as both teams put on the sort of spectacle that the tournament deserved, and it was fitting that the Jaguars team – so well balanced between global superstars and emerging Hong Kong-based starlets – emerged as champions.

Congratulations Jaguars!  No doubt the party will be long and loud tonight!