Chris Morris played a gem of an innings when it really counted by holding his nerve to help the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants stretch their lead at the top of the Mzansi Super League table with a tense five-wicket win over the winless Durban Heat in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The Proteas all-rounder carved out an unbeaten 22 off 10 balls as the visiting bowlers melted away in the face of one of the game’s finest finishers – the hosts chasing down a 161-run target with a ball to spare.
It should not have been that way, though, after some tight overs leading up to the death left the log-leaders needing 29 from the final two overs.
But Heino Kuhn (7), who shared in an unbroken 33-run stand with Morris, struck an audacious reverse six sweep off Kyle Abbott from the final ball of the 19th over, before watching from the other end as his partner slayed Malusi Siboto to complete a fourth win in five.
It continued what has been a difficult season for the Heat, yet to win after the completion of the first half of MSL 2.0 in which three of their matches have been rained out.
But in the Eastern Cape they looked as though they might break that sequence after posting a testing 160 for five on a slow St George’s Park pitch.
This was thanks mainly to a century stand between England all-rounder Ravi Bopara (57 not out off 43 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) and David Miller (45 off 36 balls, 4 sixes).
Things had initially gone the way of the PE side after they lost the toss and were asked to bowl first, with their opponents reduced to 50 for four thanks to Nandre Burger (2/24), Imran Tahir (1/20) and Jon-Jon Smuts (1/27).
But Miller and Bopara rebuilt, with excellent acceleration coming in the closing overs when they scored 65 from the final five.
Another Englishman, World Cup-winner Jason Roy gave the Giants a strong start, although scoring was rather on the slow side when they reached 92 for one in the 13th over when he finally fell.
There was also 33 by captain Smuts and 25 by Matthew Breetzke, before the home side were hauled back even further thanks to some tight bowling by Keshav Maharaj (1/17) and Siboto (2/41).
That was before Morris exploded when it really counted to edge his side over the line. The Giants now have a total of 19 points, six ahead of the Cape Town Blitz.