• Free State top pool D

    Temba Bavuma demonstrated that his batting skills are by no means restricted to the long format when he blasted Gauteng to a four-wicket victory over Kenya in their Africa T20 Cup Pool D match at the Mangaung Oval on Saturday.

    Unfortunately his unbeaten innings of 64 (39 balls, three fours and three sixes) was not enough to keep Gauteng alive in their bid to win the pool as they could not secure the all-important bonus point, but it was nevertheless a personal statement of intent from the Proteas Test batsman.

    Free State are now guaranteed first place in Pool B as their tally of 10 points is now beyond the reach of both SWD and Gauteng who both have four points with one round to be played while Kenya have yet to get off the mark with two defeats.

    ‘We didn’t achieve the team objective of winning with a bonus point,’ commented Bavuma, ‘but it was important to get back on the winning trail. We must now beat Free State in our final match tomorrow so that we at least can go home with two wins out of three.’

    The target of winning the game in 16 overs was always going to be a difficult one after Kenya posted their highest total of the tournament of 154-5. This was largely due to the opening partnership of 81 in 11 overs between Dhiren Gondaria (47 off 33 balls, three fours and three sixes) and Irfan Karim (57 not out, 53 balls, five fours).

    Earlier on Saturday Free State took a firm grip on Pool D when they beat Kenya by 10 wickets to make it two bonus-point wins out of two.

    They now top the log with 10 points followed by SWD who have four. Gauteng and Kenya have yet to get off the mark but they both have two matches still to play. Sunday’s final match between Free State and Gauteng could well turn out to be decisive.

    Unlike the earlier game on the second day the pitch was far more placid for the second match and Free State, in spite of not being at their best in the field, were able to restrict their African visitors to 131-4.

    Andries Gous and Michael Erlank, who had also had a good opening partnership in their opening match against Canon SWD, had little trouble in knocking off the runs, reducing the target to a run a ball after 10 overs and then accelerating to score the remaining 60 needed for victory in 5.5 overs.

    Gous finished on 78 (53 balls, nine fours and three sixes) and Erlank on 42 (42 balls, six fours). It has been a wonderful tournament for Gous who has scored 113 runs in his two innings for a strike rate in excess of 152. He was one of the many talents who spent the winter months at the SA Academy although he did not go on the tour to Sri Lanka. He has also emerged as a wicketkeeper of note with five dismissals so far.

    ‘This tournament has been wonderful exposure for players such as myself who are trying to break through to the next level,’ commented Gous.

    ‘We seldom get the chance to get exposure on TV and to play against a player of the calibre of Vernon Philander on Friday night was a privilege.’

    Vernon Philander took a wicket with the first ball of the innings to inspire SWD to a 19-run win over Gauteng.

    Even though conditions were extremely favourable for the bowlers SWD’s total of 111-6 looked quite a few runs short of what they needed to make a successful defence. But in the end it proved to be more than enough as Gauteng crumbled to 92-9 in their 20 overs.

    It was Philander who probably inspired SWD to believe they could pull it off when he had Yasser Cook caught by Sybrand Engelbrecht at second slip off the first ball of the innings and thereafter they hardly looked back.

    Indeed, at one stage it looked as though they might bowl Gauteng out for 88 or less and thus claim a bonus point. They are nevertheless back in the race with 4 points from 2 matches, one point behind Free State who beat SWD in their opening match last night.

    The conditions were a nightmare for the batsmen on both sides. The quicker men gained movement off the seam and also exploited variable bounce while the spinners gained appreciable turn and bounce. The two SWD spinners, Engelbrecht (2-16) and Siya Simetu (1-14), did a wonderful job in the middle of the innings and there was the unusual situation of Simetu bowling to a slip and Engelbrecht to a leg slip throughout their respective spells.

    Engelbrecht made a big contribution to the SWD victory, also making an unbeaten 37 (41 balls, three fours) while his team mate, Andrew Puttick (44 off 40 balls, six fours and a six), was the top scorer in the match. Had Puttick not been run out after a partnership of 32 (the biggest of the match) with Engelbrecht, SWD would surely have gained their bonus point.

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