Morkel's 57* turns tables on Spartans in breathtaking chase
Durban Heat 189 for 8 (Morkel 57*, Klaasen 36, Sipamla 3-37) beat Tshwane Spartans 188 for 6 (de Villiers 93*, Rashid 2-25) by two wickets
There were two no-balls, two dropped catches, and two breathtaking innings, each playing a decisive part as the league stage of the 2018-19 Mzansi Super League ended with a stunning chase at Centurion.
First, a no-ball from Kyle Abbott paved the way for a masterpiece from AB de Villiers. Abbott's transgression gave a second wind to an innings that should have ended on 22 off 21 balls. Instead, de Villiers raced to an unbeaten 93 off 52. It meant that Heat, ready to tighten the choke were instead left to scale down a colossal 189.
Then came the second special knock of the evening. Heat were meandering in the chase. They had lost four wickets inside the first five overs. At the 15-over mark, they required 67 off 30 balls and were six down. Spartans were on course. De Villiers' effort wasn't to go waste. He was going to have a memorable end to the season - which had been a quiet one, both with the bat and as captain of the side.
But Albie Morkel was lurking. He was waiting. For the right moment. The right bowler. That arrived in the form of Rory Kleinveldt in the 18th over. Heat needed 41 off 18 balls. Morkel swung wildly at the third ball of the over. He found an outside edge that flew past to the left of the keeper. It was the shot that opened the gates. Fourth ball: on a length and swung over midwicket; fifth ball: too full outside off and tonked over long-on; even a yorker, the last ball of the over, was squeezed away with force sufficient to beat deep backward point diving to his left. With 24 coming off that over, for the first time during the chase, the pressure was on the Spartans.
With 17 needed off 12, it came down to who would blink first. Then, de Villiers put down Morkel. It was a tough chance. Morkel had received one on the pads. He swung with the angle and whipped it forcefully. De Villiers flew to his right at short fine leg, but the ball wouldn't stick on. Three balls later, a six off a yorker gone wrong rubbed salt into the wounds and narrowed the equation to six off seven.
With five to defend, Eldred Hawken began in excellent fashion, giving away just three singles in the first four balls. And then came the second big no-ball of the match, when Abbott drilled Hawken straight into the hands of cover. Instead of bringing a new man out, Abbott stayed on, and the scores were level. Abbott drilled the next ball down the ground for a single, and his own no-ball earlier in the night was forgotten.
Earlier, it was Abbott's no-ball that awoke the beast within de Villiers. Until Wednesday, de Villiers had endured an unusually low-key tournament, with four single-digit scores in nine innings. The indifferent form continued into his last game of the season. But after the life, de Villiers was a different batsman.
Immediately, he began taking the toll, slashing wildly at the free-hit delivery and sending an outside edge flying to the third man boundary. Thereafter, Abbott unravelled quite spectacularly. Ball after the free-hit: overpitched outside the off stump and nailed through extra cover. Abbott even did the right thing for once, firing in a yorker outside off, only for de Villiers to get an inside edge down to fine leg. In between the two, Morne van Wyk let one slip through his legs for four byes. Abbott then sent down a second no-ball, and de Villiers had another four off the free-hit, with a mow over cover.
Back-to-back sixes off Heinrich Klaasen in the next over, which went for 18, gave de Villiers a 29-ball fifty and further reinforced his unrelenting mood. Keshav Maharaj, who had returned 3-0-16-2 was given a hostile send-off, de Villiers clattering him for a four and a six in his last. By then, de Villiers was back to doing what he usually does best: moving around the crease, maintaining a steady base, and unfurling trademark improvisations behind square on either side of the wicket.
Only Rashid Khan managed to gain a measure of restraint against de Villiers. But his figures were somewhat upset as Heat's day of overthrows and dropped catches ended with Khaya Zondo dropping an easy de Villiers offering at the cover boundary and letting it go through for four off the innings' last ball. In a game of such narrow margins, it could have cost Heat on another night.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo