Tshwane Spartans 122 for 6 (Cloete 30, Frylinck 22*, Shamsi 3-18) beat Paarl Rocks 121 all out (du Plessis 38, Sipamla 3-19) by four wickets
This match was billed as a showdown between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, who were at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool together in this very city, playing alongside each other there before moving on to be team-mates at Northerns, Titans and, of course, South Africa. In the end, it was de Villiers’ Tshwane Spartans who triumphed in a see-sawing, low-scoring thriller, chasing down Paarl Rocks’ 121 in the final over.
Tshwane Spartans came into this match wanting not just a win, but a bonus point in order to keep their Mzansi Super League campaign on track. The end result doesn’t rule them out, but they are still in the fifth position on the points table and will need other results to go their way (as well as winning all of their remaining matches) in order to get to the playoffs.
Spartans have only won two matches so far in this competition, but they have also squandered some strong positions, and that was very nearly the case again today. Needing to score at a run a ball to win, Spartans will also have had the potential bonus point on offer for a victory in 16 overs or less in their minds as they started their chase.
All seemed to be going to plan when they had reached 64 for 1 midway through the 10th over, Andrea Agathangelou powering the chase with a flurry of boundaries to make up for Dean Elgar’s slow start at the top of the order. But when he was given out caught behind off the glove – somewhat contentiously – aiming a paddle scoop over short fine leg, Spartans started to slide.
On a pitch that had plenty of cracks to encourage the spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi rocked the Spartans with two quick wickets in his third over, including that of de Villiers, bowled through the gate by one that gripped and spun in to him. Shamsi concluded by pinning a reverse-sweeping Eoin Morgan lbw for 4 as Spartans slipped to 82 for 5.
While wickets were falling, the runs also dried up, and Spartans couldn’t find the boundary between the 11th and 16th overs. That put paid to any hopes they might have had of still securing a bonus point, but it also brought what should have been a straightforward chase to a nerve-jangling conclusion.
Tony de Zorzi flat-batted David Wiese over cover to break the shackles, and then brought up the 100 in the 17th over with a shovel over Paterson’s head. With two overs to go, Spartans needed 15, and their job could have quickly become even harder when de Zorzi missed an attempted paddle at a Bravo slower ball to be struck on the pad, but was very luckily not given out even though the ball would have cannoned into leg stump.
Bravo had his revenge three balls later, de Zorzi mistiming a heave at a slow bouncer to be easily caught in the deep, and Spartans went into the final over needing 11. Robbie Frylinck, who had nudged his way to 11 off 18, biffed the first ball over long on for six, and the second straight down the ground for four more to draw level, before turning the third to fine leg for the winning run.
While Frylinck was their hero with the bat, Lutho Sipamla was Spartans’ spearhead with the ball, operating as a one-over strike bowler and repeatedly returning to the attack to break through whenever Paarl threatened to lay a platform.
First, he had a flat-footed Aiden Markram caught behind to snap the opening stand in his first over. With Faf du Plessis scoring at a strike rate of 200 in the Powerplay, Sipamla returned to have him caught at cover by AB de Villiers for 38. After Dwayne Bravo hit three sixes off legspinners Jeevan Mendis and Shaun von Berg, Sipamla returned once more to remove him via a slice drive, and he completed his bowling work for the day by conceding just two runs in his final over, the 17th of the innings, to finish with figures of 3 for 19.
Though they leaked runs early when du Plessis and Bravo were on the counter-attack, Spartans’ spin attack struck back superbly to deal with the lower order. Von Berg had Vaughn van Jaarsveld caught at long on at the start of his spell, and then returned to repeat the treatment against Mangaliso Mosehle. In the same over, von Berg combined with Rory Kleinveldt to get rid of Fortuin via the outside edge, Kleinveldt holding a stunning reflex catch at slip as Rocks slipped to 100 for 8.
Paterson struck a couple of lusty blows, but Mendis returned to bowl the 18th over and brought the innings to a swift end. His googly caught the inside edge of Tshepo Moreki’s bat, wicketkeeper Gilhaln Cloete holding the catch between his legs, and Paterson mistimed a slog two balls later as Rocks were bowled out with more than two overs to spare. Had they scored just a few more, they might have won this game, but Rocks’ defeat mean they now have a slim lead of just one point over Spartans, and the play-off race is still wide open.