The tournament which put Hong Kong on the cricket map returned after a five-year hiatus, as HKSixes found its way back into Kowloon Cricket Club during the Halloween weekend. While HK has been steadily climbing the ladder of international cricket, with participation in the Asia Cup and two World T20s, the Sixes’ absence has left many-a-fan holding onto only memories. So, special thanks go out to the sponsors for ensuring a gallery full of returning fans and newbies learning the ropes of the game…
…the ropes themselves were unable to contain the new orange balls – with over 200 of them smacked outside the stadium – making great souvenirs for youngsters falling in love with the game.
Furthering the game in Hong Kong and China was the goal of this HKSixes as the guardians of the game, Marleybone Cricket Club (MCC), made their debut in the format. Fittingly MCC, which sets the laws of the game and plays around 480 matches every year, battled Hong Kong in the Plate Final. To the raucous delight of the home crowd, the apprentices upended the oldest cricket club, thanks to the heroics of Nizakat Khan and Ehsan Khan – who finished as the top run-scorer and wicket-taker of the tournament, respectively.
Hong Kong and MCC were joined in the fun by six other returning teams – Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka, all of whom enjoyed brilliant support. While Pakistan’s fans were unmissable in their green and white, Sri Lanka’s supporters came out with their songs, drums and dances.
Local fans also made their presence felt donning the HK Jersey, to compete with the beer-drinking Australian and Kiwi fans, while enjoying the samosas and chicken tikkas being served.
Though India’s superstars were conspicuous by their absence, the gallery was treated to superb performances by international superstars like John Hastings and Nathan Reardon (AUS), Peter Fulton (NZ), Farveez Maharoof (SRL) and Samit Patel (MCC), many of whom also held a cricket clinic for over 50 kids a day prior to the tournament. Also looking to make their name were under-19 stars of Bangladesh, including Saif Hasan and Afif Hossain, who scripted a remarkable victory against Australia, and South Africa’s Sarel Erwee, who was a top all-rounder in the tournament.
In the absence of India, the biggest cheers were reserved for HKSixes’ most successful team, 9-time finalists and 5-time winners, Pakistan. Led by Sohail Tanvir, Pakistan, were the strongest team given their array of international pedigreed stars including Mohd. Sami, Sohail Khan and Anwar Ali. They justified their favourites tag by squashing every opponent in their path to storm into the finals against a young inexperienced South African team, devoid of any stars, but coached by ex-South African international, Ashwell Prince.
The final was one for the ages – with South Africa requiring 4 off the last ball – against Sohail Khan’s bowling and a hostile crowd.
But, a new hero was born as Afrikaans’ captain Aubrey Swanepoel drilled a yorker to the boundary, sparking amazing scenes of joy on the ground, and appreciated by the 1000s present.
As the fans slowly exited into Cox’s Road, there was a sense that HK cricket’s fairy-tale had added another unforgivable chapter to the growth of the game.