World legends spark fireworks at Hong Kong Sixes

Cricketing greats Shane Warne, Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath on Saturday starred on the opening day of the Hong Kong Sixes—one of the sport’s most colourful tournaments.

They led an All-Stars team competing in a weekend of quick-fire matches with innings of only five overs a side—a format that demands non-stop boundaries from the batsmen.

The six-a-side event pits nine national teams against the All-Stars, who also fielded Indian super spinner Anil Kumble, England’s Geraint Jones and big-hitters Craig McMillan of New Zealand and Heath Streak of Zimbabwe.

After Saturday’s group matches, all ten teams remain in the running to lift the trophy, with England, New Zealand and Bangladesh tipped to provide the toughest challenge to the dominant All-Stars.

McMillan—who hit the most sixes at the recent Twenty20 world championships—and Streak were the top performers with crunching innings against Australia, Bangladesh and South Africa as the All-Stars cruised to three easy wins.

Against Bangladesh the All-Stars scored a bruising 120 runs for one wicket in their five overs.

Under the Sixes’ unique rules, batsmen retire when they pass 31 and the whole team must bowl an over each, except for the wicket-keeper.

The packed crowd was kept on its toes as balls repeatedly crashed into the stands at the tiny Kowloon Cricket Club, set amid Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.

Lara (38), now retired from international cricket, showed some of the form that made him the world’s highest Test run scorer with two huge sixes and four fours against Australia.

“Today it is fun, with things getting more serious tomorrow [Sunday],” Lara said, adding that he was enjoying the chance to play alongside former rivals and to keep wicket.

Warne (38) struggled with bat and ball, but McGrath displayed batting expertise that was seldom seen during his long Test career, scoring a six off his first ball against South Africa.

“It has been six months since I picked up a bat or had a bowl, so it is a lot of fun to play like this,” McGrath (37) said after the day’s play. “I just went for the shot and it came off.

“We have been improving as a side today, so tomorrow we should be difficult to beat. I might feel a little stiff after the weekend but I’ll be fine.”

Anil Kumble said the Hong Kong Sixes, first held in 1992, was a special date in the international cricket diary but that Test matches must remain the priority in the face of booming interest in shorter formats.

“With the growth of shorter cricket games, I think it is important that Test matches remain the ultimate stage,” he said.
“But as long as the different formats are kept separate, I don’t see any problems.”

Famous for its casual style and party atmosphere, the Hong Kong Sixes has a record of attracting the world’s top players, with Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Flintoff all appearing in past tournaments.

Last year’s tournament was won by outsiders South Africa, who beat favourites Pakistan in the final.—AFP

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