Dwayne Smith receives Man of the Match award for his 31-ball century © Hong Kong Cricket (Twitter)
Dwayne Smith receives Man of the Match award for his 31-ball century © Hong Kong Cricket (Twitter)

What is T20 cricket without West Indies cricketers? When we think of West Indies cricketers in the shortest format, there is very little doubt that Chris Gayle’s name tops everyone’s minds. As we go further, we have the two-time World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy and of course, Marlon Samuels, the man who played crucial hands and won the Man of the Match in both those finals. The bowlers are lucky that Gayle could not make it to Hong Kong as we would have required a new ball more frequently. The straight boundaries at the Mission Road Cricket Ground are just about 53 to 55 metres, the square boundaries probably touching the 60-metre mark. As a result, it should not be that much of a surprise that as many as 51 sixes were hit today – 13 of which came from Smith’s bat. That more than made up for the delayed start in the morning.

Speaking to CricketCountry.com about the dimensions of the ground, Tim Cutler, the CEO of Cricket Hong Kong however said that the Mission Road Cricket Ground is the biggest they have in the country.

“For people, who are new to Hong Kong Cricket, we only have the tree turf grounds. This is actually the largest field we have. The other two are at Kowloon Cricket Club and the Hong Kong Cricket Club, which are smaller than this. So, this is a government run facility, we actually have the contract for the square. Everything we have, we have had to bring in. We are just making the best of what we have. That’s the way we are looking at it. It has been appreciated by the fans, when I was walking around in the general admission areas and also the owners areas.”

Déjà vu

Most matches in the 2016 edition of the tournament were washed away. In fact, the final too had to be called off as rains showed no remorse. As a result, the trophy was shared by Island Warriors and the Kowloon Cantons. Cutler said that he felt a Déjà vu from last year after he checked his phone while returning from from some official meetings in Dubai.

“I really felt for the team my plane landed at 11 in the morning and took my form. As soon as I saw that the covers are on the field, I was like, ‘oh no’! I wouldn’t say that my heart dropped, but there was a definite feeling of Déjà vu from last year. We’ve got five days. There’s lot better drainage on the field and we are a lot prepared, as you would have seen yourself. Everything is set up for a great five days. Hopefully the weather Gods play their part as well”.

20-30 runs short

Dwayne Smith smashed a 31-ball hundred in the second match of the day against City Kaitak, to help his side – the Kowloon Cantons – cruise to an 8-wicket win, chasing 200 for a win. Smith took 16 balls to get to his fifty but scored the next 50 runs in just 15 balls. Smith like everyone else, took special liking to the straight boundary. First over of the Cantons’ innings, bowled by Tanveer Ahmed read – 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, 0. Smith never looked back after that. He stitched an unbeaten 142-run stand for the third wicket with Samuels (59*).

Given the dimensions of the ground, Smith felt that Kaitak were about 20-30 runs short.

“They [City Kaitak] were about 20-30 runs short. You have to get about 220 batting first to challenge teams. Having said that, we batted very well and had a great start as well. So it was good to continue from there,” said Smith.

Smith also hope’s that the Hong Kong T20 Blitz gets bigger. Hope that the guys will carry back information to the other guys and get them interested in coming here and playing as well.

Smith added 142-run third wicket stand with Samuels, who ended with a 33-ball 59.

In the other match, Sammy and James Franklin inspired Hung Hom JD Jaguars to a 27-run win against Galaxy Gladiators Lantau, in a match that was reduced to 11 overs per side. After obliging the fans earlier in the day with selfies and autographs (including yours truly) Sammy did what he does best — destroy bowling attacks. He slammed 52 not out from 19 balls.

Darren Sammy (right) with Chris Jordan (left) and Rayad Emrit before the start of match © Hong Kong Cricket (Twitter)
Darren Sammy (right) with Chris Jordan (left) and Rayad Emrit before the start of match © Hong Kong Cricket (Twitter)

Home, away from home

The last two days I have been to the Mission Ground Cricket Ground, it has given me a home-like feeling. Whether it’s cricket in India or over 2,000 miles away at Hong Kong, there will be large Indian contingent present. Things were no different in Hong Kong. I heard more Hindi than Mandarin in the ground, which made me realise home is not too far away. What made it better was I saw roti, paneer, kurma, jeera rice and some chicken for lunch. I immediately feasted on them before resuming work. On my way out at the end of the day, I went past someone, who looked a lot like Shahid Afridi. But then, I had earlier learnt that he will mentor Kowloon Cantons and not play for them after he had to undergo 12 stitches on his right hand after hurting it during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) recently.

At the end of the day, it was cricket that took centre stage. The fans and also the organisers can be happy with the start to the 2017 edition of the tournament. West Indies clearly dominated Day 1. Will it be a similar story on Day 2? Let us wait and watch!