Emerging Players Tournament, Twenty20, Caloundra July 16, 2007

Ontong on song as South Africa strike early blow

South Africa Emerging Players 6 for 134 (Ontong 63*, Sullivan 3-30) beat Australian Academy 7 for 131 (Ronchi 35, Morkel 3-8) by four wickets



Luke Ronchi reproduced some of the shots he plays for Western Australia for the Academy © Getty Images

Justin Ontong was a late addition to the South Africa Emerging Players squad but he immediately displayed his class as he steered them to a 19th-over victory against the Australian Academy in the opening match of the two-week tournament in Queensland. Vaughn van Jaarsveld's decision to stay in England as a Kolpak player opened the space for Ontong, the former Test and ODI player, and he took control after they slipped to 3 for 21 with an unbeaten 63 off 44 balls.

No other batsman reached 20 in the innings as Ontong planted three sixes and his seventh four ended the match with six balls remaining. The South Africa coach Kepler Wessels called Ontong's display "superb" and was pleased with his team's first hit-out of the Emerging Players Tournament.

"It was important to start well and we did that, but we should get better," he said. "The pitch was sporty, which was good for us as our bowling attack is strong, and we bowled well early, but I thought they got about 15 too many."

Morne Morkel stunned Australia when he dropped them to 3 for 8, including zeroes for the fancied top-order batsmen Mark Cosgrove, Ed Cowan and Luke Pomersbach. Aaron Finch (26) and Michael Hill (34) led the recovery and Luke Ronchi added some punishing touches with 35 off 23 balls to drag the side to 131.

Australian Academy 5 for 132 (Ronchi 31) beat Karnataka State Cricket Association XI 8 for 129 (Chougle 36, Heal 3-26) by five wickets

The Australian Academy hit back quickly from their early disappointment by defeating the Karnataka State Cricket Association XI with seven balls to spare. The home side made regular inroads after bowling first and was led by Aaron Heal, the left-arm spinner, who picked up three wickets as Karnataka were restricted to 129.

Deepak Chougle, the No. 4, led the resistance with 36 and Bharat Chipli and Amit Verma also made starts when a half-century would have pushed them to a highly competitive total. S Aravind struck twice when Australia were 18 before Luke Ronchi (31) and Luke Pomersbach (26) settled the situation. Craig Philipson and Ed Cowan, who had captained a game each during the day, were left to steer the chase and Cowan was 27 not out when the win was sealed shortly before dusk.

New Zealand A 7 for 168 (Hopkins 51, Botha 3-32, Philander 3-34) beat South Africa Emerging Players 6 for 165 (Petersen 59, McSkimming 3-35) by three wickets

New Zealand A began their tournament on a high with a tight three-wicket win over South Africa Emerging Players under lights. Chasing 166, New Zealand reached a day-high score of 7 for 168 thanks to some heavy hitting from Gareth Hopkins, who smashed 51 from 34 balls before becoming the first of Johan Botha's three victims.

Hopkins departed at 4 for 114 with the side in good shape and Nathan McCullum provided a push with 29 off 14 deliveries. Botha, who went for 32 from his three overs, was supported by Vernon Philander as he picked up 3 for 34.

The opener Alviro Petersen gave South Africa a good start with 59 as they set the challenge for New Zealand. Francois du Plessis picked up 42 and Jean-Paul Duminy made a handy contribution with 37.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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