Kagiso Rabada and Reeza Hendricks played key roles for the Highveld Lions as they beat the Dolphins in Sunday’s CSA T20 Challenge Final in Durban.
JOHANNESBURG – The Lions manufactured a lot of unnecessary drama for themselves, before eventually winning the Betway T20 Challenge final on Sunday.
What should have been a simple chase, became a trip through a minefield, for a team packed with national players. It was a really poorly managed chase after they’d knocked off 41 runs for the loss of the out of form Ryan Rikelton’s wicket in the powerplay.
Afterwards the players mentioned the two paced nature and invariable bounce of the pitch, but for too many South African batsmen that becomes an easy excuse. The Lions should never have found themselves in the position they did needing a run-a-ball off the last four overs.
Thankfully for them, Wiaan Mulder, who wasn’t in the starting team for the first few matches of the tournament, showed composure, knowing exactly which bowler he wanted to take on, as the Dolphins grew gradually more hopeful of pulling off an unlikely turnaround.
Off the penultimate ball of the 18th over he launched off-spinner Prenelan Subrayen for six over long-on to relieve the tension that had built up in the preceding 20 minutes.
“There was quite a lot of pressure on the lower order,” said the young all-rounder who finished not out on 24. “The ball was not coming onto the bat and they bowled some variations. It was a difficult wicket to bat on.”
The Lions’ power packed bowling unit delivered in the most important match of the tournament, with Kagiso Rabada producing a performance that outlined why he is among the best fast bowlers in the world.
Rabada claimed 3/12, including the vital wicket of David Miller in the Dolphins’ powerplay to sink their hopes.
While there were some fighting knocks from Khaya Zondo (24*) and Robbie Frylinck, the Dolphins had nowhere near enough runs. The rest of the Lions attack backed up Rabada beautifully, with Sisanda Magala adding two wickets to his tally for the tournament, leaving him as top wicket-taker with 13.
There was good support from the spinners; Bjorn Fortuin (1/19) and Aaron Phangsio (0/25), which demonstrated the depth of quality at the disposal of coach Wandile Gwavu and skipper Temba Bavuma.
They were tournament favourites because of that, but still needed to show the form on the field to annex the trophy. Throughout the week, they never had to exert themselves although it was a concern that the batting looked so laxed – against the Knights where they failed to obtain a bonus point while chasing 107 and then against Dolphins when they lost by 41 runs.
Perhaps that lack of intent is what led them into trouble on Sunday, fortunately, it didn’t prove costly. “I’m super proud to have led these guys,” said Bavuma. “They reacted positively to all that was asked of them.”
Dolphins 107/7 (Frylinck 30*. Rabada 3/12, Magala 2/19)
Lions 108/6 (R Hendricks 39, Mulder 24*, Baartman 2/20)
Lions won by 4 wickets