The Crusaders pulled off a heroic one-wicket victory over Maties to clinch the 2015 Momentum National Club Championship title for the first time on Monday.
They are the first community club team to win the tournament in more than 10 years, after the competition had been dominated by tertiary institution clubs. The Crusaders also became the first cricket and rugby sides to win their respective club championships in the same season.
In a remarkable display of grit and determination, Sean Dixon struck 83 from 57 deliveries to dig his side out of trouble after they collapsed to 30-6 in the 14th over, chasing the 217-run target set by Maties.
Justin Dill (3- 27), Christiaan le Roux (3-48) and Stephanus Fourie (2-18) took out the Crusaders top six, claiming two batsmen each at the top end of the innings, to leave them on the back foot and on an almost certain road to defeat.
Dixon, along with Bevan Williams (35) put on a 110-run ninth-wicket partnership, with another crucial 37 runs added by Kyle Simmonds to give their side a thoroughly deserved victory via the Duckworth/Lewis method, after rain caused a minor delay at the start of their innings.
Crusaders captain Robert Cliff was delighted and humbled by his side’s never-say-die performance.
‘We were in real trouble there,’ he said. ‘We had our backs up against the wall with virtually no place to go but defeat and Sean stepped up in the most inspiring way. He and Bevan got us out of trouble and led the side to victory. I have never been so proud as a captain, but mostly, a teammate. I doubt I will ever play another cricket game like this one.’
It was a particularly sweet victory for Cliff as it was also his last club match, having announced his intention to retire before the side travelled to Pretoria for the finals week.
‘I couldn’t have left on a better note,’ he continued. ‘To retire after such an amazing match and to have had the privilege of this experience is something that I will hold dear for many years to come, and to win the trophy for our club for the first time after playing in four finals is the icing on the cake.’
His counterpart from Maties, Dewald Botha, was disappointed to be on the losing side after his bowlers had set the side up so well in the beginning.
‘Cricket is a funny game, you think you’re in it and then it spins completely on its head and you find yourself on the losing side,’ he said. ‘We’re disappointed with the loss and have learned a valuable lesson in not taking your position for granted, but I can’t be more proud of my team for remaining unbeaten in this tournament until we reached this point. Full credit has to go to the Crusaders, who never gave up and got themselves over the line.’
Dixon received the Man of the Match award and Keegan Petersen from Maties was named the Player of the Tournament.