Eastern Province were clinical with bat and ball as they were crowned Africa T20 champions in Outdshorn on Saturday.
Man-of- the-Match JJ Smuts was always going to be important to Eastern Province’s chances of becoming Africa T20 Cup champions, and their captain started off as expected scoring a four off his first delivery.
EP were gifted the opportunity to execute their game plan to perfection after winning the toss and electing to bat. Smuts and Edward Moore both kept the scoreboard ticking by keeping the run rate at eight in the first two overs, until Smuts decided to turn it up, putting Northern Cape under early pressure with some signature big shots.
Moore complemented his captain beautifully by rotating the strike regularly and picking out his boundaries intelligently, the pair racing to a 50-run partnership in just five and a half overs.
Smuts did well to get himself to 40 off 23 balls, hitting five fours and two sixes, before slapping the ball into the hands of extra cover. Colin Ackerman wasted no time, striking two clean sixes after facing only three deliveries. His role would become vital to posting a good target after Moore threw away his wicket scoring 30 off 25 balls and Clyde Fortuin doing the same attempting an extravagant sweep to his own demise.
Ackermann took advantage of the great foundation set by his captain, and moved on to 46 off 31 balls before falling to a magnificent left-handed diving catch from Diego Rosier just short of his half-century. Good bowling from, Werner Coetsee (2-26) and Aubrey Swanapoel (2-21) helped pull Northern Cape back into the game but a good push in the final over from Nqweni (16 off eight balls), helped EP post a handy score of 165-6 at the end of their 20 overs.
Northern Cape got off to a contrasting start to their opponents, due to good aggressive bowling from the leading wicket taker of the tournament, Sisanda Magala, who managed to take the wicket of opening batsman Patrick Kruger off his second ball bowled. Diego Rossier and Gerhardt Abrahams tried hard to steady the ship but Brad Dolley’s spin bowling did the trick breaking the 31-run partnership by dismissing Rosier in the sixth over.
Aubrey Swanepoel looked to back up his bowling display by attempting to swing momentum his team’s way and he showed signs of this early on by smashing two sixes after facing 1o balls. This seemed to spark some life into Abrahams as he smashed a huge maximum at the half way mark, but Swanepoel’s quick-bursting spell was ended by JJ Smuts, who backed up his fine batting display with a brace overall. Northern Cape’s chances started to fade away as Dolley picked up his second dismissing the dangerous Abrahams half way through the 11th over.
With 87 runs needed to win with eight overs remaining, Jacques Snyman and Coetzee tried to nibble away at the target but Nqweni had a different idea with a quick brace in consecutive balls mimicking his quick tailender display during his batting-spell. The Northern Cape captain remained unbeaten on 37 off 27 balls, battling till the end despite picking up a tweaked hamstring while wickets kept falling around him.
The EP bowling attack outshone their batting performance, with Nqweni (3-20), Smuts (2-22 ), Dolley (2-28) and Magala (2-21) ) ending Northern Cape’s chances of reaching their target, 134-9 their final score at the end of their 20 overs. Eastern Province crowned Africa T20 Cup champions with a 31-run victory.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images