IT was a clash earmarked by both teams as soon as the fixture list was revealed.
Hong Kong had maintained a slender one-point lead over Jersey since the conclusion of round two in Uganda, but the hosts knew a win on home soil would propel them to the top of Challenge League B for the first time since it began back in 2019.
Furthermore, there was some added needle in the affair, following an unsuccessful Hong Kong complaint at Jersey’s conduct in the previous fixture in Kampala.
A vocal Jersey lost the toss and the visitors chose to bat first at a vibrant Farmers Field yesterday.
The venue has proved to be friendly to the batters during prior fixtures and Hong Kong were hoping to race out to a total to stick the Caesareans under the cosh.
They did just that, thanks to almost 100 runs scored in the final seven overs, but it was not plain sailing for the Asian side, who lost opener Zeeshan Ali at the end of the third.
Pace bowler Julius Sumerauer came storming in downwind and wicketkeeper Jake Dunford was alert to Ali’s edge that stuck in his gloves.
Dangerman Babar Hayat was up next in a bid to settle his side into the innings, but was soon undone by a sublime catch from Anthony Hawkins-Kay at short mid-off – sending team-mates and spectators into raptures.
Hong Kong were struggling with the run rate on a wicket that yields high totals, scoring at below four an over.
Opener Nizakat Khan was the ever-present in the middle, but was finding it difficult to get colleagues to stick around with him.
Kinchit Shah, in at four, was dismissed for just eight runs when Asa Tribe ran him out with just a single stump to aim at charging in at mid-on.
The teenager then claimed a wicket with the ball, trapping Mohammed Aizaz Khan LBW, reducing the visitors to 94/4 from 26 overs.
Something had to change for Hong Kong, and it did, in the shape of Yasim Murtaza.
Along with opener Khan, the pair saw out the remainder of the innings with a partnership worth 190 from 24 overs.
Both batters scored a century, with Murtaza’s coming off just 80 balls, to leave the tie firmly in the balance.
The duo opened up in the last few overs to propel them to a defendable total of 284, including three maximums from the last three deliveries, when it looked for all the world Jersey would hold them to less than 250.
Head coach Neil MacRae said: ‘On a quick outfield, to keep them under 300 was an excellent effort.
‘The fielding effort was absolutely fantastic. Jonty [Jenner], Anthony [Hawkins-Kay] and Julius [Sumerauer] saved a ton of runs and really kept the total down.
‘Hong Kong put together a great partnership and I think 280 on the board is about par, so it’s very finely balanced.’
Jersey once again placed their faith in openers Harrison Carlyon and Nick Greenwood, who have been electric during the summer.
The duo stamped their authority immediately, picking holes in the field during the powerplay.
Unfortunately for the hosts, Carlyon was bowled by Ayush Shukla after a quick start.
He would walk for an efficient 28 from 21 deliveries.
Greenwood also pressed on and scored effectively to keep Jersey well above the required rate.
Josh Lawrenson now partnered him in the middle and he certainly understood the assignment – settling for quick singles and picking off the odd loose bowl for four.
The hosts raced out to 68/1 from the first ten overs and 125/1 inside 22 as Greenwood reached his 50. The loss of Lawrenson arrived with 145 on the board but they had placed themselves in the Group B driving seat – knowing full well runs would be on offer towards the tail end of the innings.
Jersey were right, Lawrenson was replaced by another teenager in fine form as Asa Tribe entered the fray. The 18-year-old ensured his his never fell behind the rate, concluding the innings on 80 off just 76 balls.
Nick Greenwood unfortunately fell on 94, just shy of his century – leaving Jenner to partner Tribe to steer Jersey across the line.
A mature, calculated innings from start to finish sent the hosts to the top of the table, leapfrogging Hong Kong and putting themselves in the drivers seat to advance from Group B.
Meanwhile, Uganda – who started the day level on points with Jersey – were dealt another blow at Grainville as they finished short of the target required to beat Kenya.
Chasing 172, Kenya reduced Uganda to just 136 all out in 45 overs.
Only the group winner will progress to the next round of qualifying for the 2023 50-over World Cup.