February 21, 2000

Another Pollock to the fore

Patrick Compton

KINGSMEAD had another Pollock to honour last night, although it was not to the advantage of the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins who were the victims of his flashing blade.

The son of former South African great Graeme, Anthony Pollock of unfashionable Easterns maintained his team's unbeaten record in the Standard Bank Cup, and took them to the top of the log, when he clinched a nail-biting three-wicket victory for his team with three balls to go. With Easterns needing nine off the last over, chasing the Dolphins' total of 229-7, Pollock effectively wrapped it up when he casually flicked the first delivery from Keith Storey off his legs into the old West Stand. The stroke also brought up his own half-century in 53 balls and match adjudicator Denzil Bezuidenhout had no hesitation in making him man of the match.

Pollock, at 26 the same age as his more eminent cousin Shaun, showed great character under considerable pressure to take his team to victory. He may be a more limited batsman than his dad, but his father's flowing cover drives lived again in his son last night as the Dolphins fed his favourite stroke.

Easterns had made an explosive, almost Sri Lankan start to their run chase with opener Derek Brand playing the role of Jayasuriya with considerable aplomb, smashing a brilliant half-century in 45 balls and severely punishing Ross Veenstra, in particular, who eventually went for 61 in his nine overs.

However, after roaring to 70 in their first 10 overs, the introduction of acting captain Eldine Baptiste and Jon Kent slowed the visitors down while Storey made an excellent comeback to pick up the two crucial middle-order wickets of Phil Simmons and Anthony Botha. Kent picked up 3-40 in his nine overs while Baptiste strangled the run flow as only he knows how. Wickets fell regularly as the tense climax approached with Easterns needing just over a run a ball in their last 10 overs. The match was up for grabs and it was Pollock, in the end, who did the necessary when it mattered.

Earlier, the Dolphins made a stuttering start to their innings with the loss of Doug Watson, Ahmed Amla (rashly spooning a pull off his first ball to midwicket), and an out-of-sorts Mark Bruyns for just 30.

KwaZulu-Natal's recovery was begun by Andrew Hudson and Jonty Rhodes, who added 101 for the fourth wicket, and continued by Hudson and Errol Stewart, who accelerated the run-rate in no uncertain terms, running superbly between the wickets and pouncing on any loose deliveries to crack boundaries. They added 56 in only 48 balls with Stewart finally departing for an explosive 32 in 25 balls, including one superb straight-driven six off spinner Deon Jordaan.

But it was Hudson who played the central innings, mixing watchful defence with some trademark drives, square cuts and pulls. He finally perished 11 short of what would have been a deserved century, smacking a full toss straight to midwicket. His 89 in 108 balls included seven boundaries. Ironically, his position in the team was in some doubt up until the morning of the match when skipper Dale Benkenstein pulled out. Benkenstein has still not recovered from a minor chest operation last week, and will not play in the Dolphins' clash against Northerns at Centurion Park tomorrow. Instead, he will join the team for their match against North West in Potchefstroom on Wednesday.

With or without Benkenstein, the Dolphins will have to improve considerably on their bowling performance last night if they want to be competitive in this competition. It's all very well backing your batsmen, as the Dolphins have every right to do, but the bowlers have to come to the party as well.