Defiant Murray thwarts Easterns
Recent history repeated itself at Willowmoore Park on Sunday when Easterns again had Eastern Province reeling in their Supersport Series match, but were unable to wrap up their tail cheaply.
The result was that the home side found themselves facing a daunting target of 276 on a lively, wearing pitch if they were to make it two wins out of two and all but assure themselves a place in the Super Eight phase of the competition early next year.
By stumps they had knocked off 40 of those fairly quickly for the loss of one wicket, with bad light ending play a ball into the 15th over. Opener Ernest Mokoenanyane, who finished unbeaten on 20, had taken a sharp blow to the orearm from debutant EP opening bowler Dewald Senekal and he could be nursing a nasty bruise when play resumes on Monday morning.
They had also lost the normally resolute Brad White, bowled by Justin Kemp for 15 to end an opening stand of 34.
Easterns, who had skipper Deon Jordaan unbeaten on two overnight in partnership with Mokoenanyane, have the time to make the required runs, but if their batting is anything as brittle as their first innings of 172, they will struggle on Monday.
EP's second innings followed much the same pattern as their first as Easterns sought to restrict the target they would have to chase on a pitch that appeared to be getting more and more difficult. The visitors' scoring rate stayed below two to the over for most of the innings, not surprising given that they were reduced to 99 for seven at one point, before the last three wickets realised a further 92 runs.
Most of the credit for that revival belonged to wicketkeeper Wayne Murray, ironically moved down a place to number nine in the order after the first innings heroics of Robin Peterson.
Murray finished unbeaten on 58 to enable his team to set Easterns a far stiffer target than had seemed likely at one stage.
Kenny Benjamin proved the most effective weapon in the Easterns pace arsenal, finishing with four for 35, but he and the other less experienced quicks proved equally ineffectual in trying to break the last wicket stand between Murray and Mfuneko Ngam, which eventually yielded 31.
Amazingly, with two left-armers available to provide much-needed variation in his attack, Easterns skipper Jordaan took until the 89th over to employ one of them, Gareth Flusk, and he took only five balls to wrap up the EP knock, having Ngam caught behind by wicketkeeper Dylan Jennings.