Semi-finalists set for MTN40
It's the animal kingdom versus the warlords in the semi-finals of the MTN40 after the Dolphins, Knights, Titans and Lions made it through to the knockout stages of the competition. This week saw the last cluster of group stage matches being played. The Dolphins usurped the top of their table, after the Lions, who dominated the opening stages, crashed to three consecutive losses. Meanwhile the Titans romped to a sixth, successive win, and the Cobras sang a redemption song even though they bowed out of the competition.
The Lions downward slide began in East London, where they lost to the Warriors by four wickets on Wednesday. Half centuries from Jean Symes, who made 72 from 90, and Neil Mckenzie, with 52 at a run-a-ball, laid the foundation for the Lions, but it was Zander de Bruyn's 44, from 26 balls, and Thami Tsolekile's 22 from 14 that pushed the Lions run rate over over six, as they finished with 245 for 6.
The Lions bowlers looked up to the task of defending their total, having pegged the Warriors back to 95 for 5 in the 18th over, but a 146-run sixth wicket partnership between Justin Kreusch and Jon-Jon Smuts swung the game in Warriors' favour, and they reached their target with four balls to spare. Kresuch finished with 92 from 83, while Smuts made 61. Any glimmer of hope the Warriors may have had of qualifying for the semi-finals was put out by the Cobras on Friday, when they beat the defending champions by five wickets in Cape Town. The Cobras bowlers combined well to restrict the Warriors to 228 for 7, with Kelly Smuts top scoring with 48 the. Charl Langeveldt was the most successful bowler, taking 3 for 40.
The Cobras lost Robin Peterson early for 4, but Richard Levi's aggressive 86, which included eight fours and four sixes, punished the Warriors. Levi received support from Andrew Puttick, who made 40 from 38, but Nicky Boje bowled a strangling spell, giving away just 22 runs in 8 overs and removed Levi, to give Warriors an outside chance of victory. However, Lenert van Wyk and Justin Ontong then came together to add 41 for the sixth wicket, and see Cobras home with three overs to spare.
The Dolphins began to put pressure on the Lions at the top of Pool B when they beat the Knights by 67 runs in Durban on Friday. Ahmed Amla (58) and Ravi Bopara (60) made half-centuries, while Ryan McLaren took 4 for 42, as the Dolphins were bowled out for 201. Bopara then shone with the ball as well,
After Kyle Abbott had snagged Reeza Hendricks, who had struggled to make 8, and Jon Kent removed Morne van Wyk, Bopara sunk his teeth in in. He took four for 11 in six overs, including the wickets of Rilee Rossouw, leg before for 30 off 28 balls, and Ryan Bailey, bowled for 24. Keshav Maharaj and Imran Tahir chipped in with two wickets apiece, as the Cobras collapsed for 134.
The Lions slipped to second in the pool after they lost to the Titans by 96 runs in Centurion. the same day. The Titans put up a massive 310 for 4, led by Faf du Plessis, whose 120 off 93 balls included 11 fours and a six. Opener Jacques Rudolph blasted 69 off 60 balls, and Farhaan Berhardien addded 51 from 37 to take the Titans past 300.
A bad day for the Lions got worse when they crashed to 10 for six. Albie Morkel had for 2 for 5 and Ethy Mbhalati had 3 for 2 at that stage. Zander de Bruyn dug deep to score 109 off 96 balls to give the Lions some respectabilitym and along with Werner Coetsee (68) helped take the Lions to 214.
On Sunday, the Lions lost again, going down to the Cobras by four wickets in Johannesburg. Neil McKenzie anchored the Lions with 73 from 107 balls but got little support as the Lions struggled to 174 for 9. Rory Kleinveldt led the bowlers with 3 for 25, and was backed up by Charl Langeveldt, with 2 for 22, and Monde Zondeki, with 2 for 30) .
The Cobras had few problems overhauling their target, winning with four overs to spare. Owais Shah's half-century was the bedrock of the innings. The Dolphins and Lions each won four matches, with the Dolphins topping the group on net run rate. The Cobras ended bottom of Pool B, with two wins from seven matches.
In Kimberley, the Titans won their battle with the Knights by four wickets. The Knights put on an imposing 268 for 5, with Morne van Wyk and Reeza Hendricks setting the pace early on. The pair put on 97, with van Wyk making 57 from 41 balls and Hendricks 66 from 74 balls. The Titans bowlers suffered, with Albie Morkel going for 69 runs from his eight overs. Mbhalati was injured in the match and only bowled eight balls.
The Titans teetered on 10 for three after a triple-strike from Ryan McLaren, but Du Plessis scored his second hundred in as many matches, making 108 off 91 balls, to swing the pendulum back in the visitors' favour. He was assisted by Henry Davids (51) and Farhaan Berhardien (44), as the Titans won with four balls to spare, and top Pool A with six victories from seven matches. The Knights finished second with three wins. Defending champions, the Warriors, won just two matches and brought up the rear of their group.
Batsman of the week: Two hundreds in three days Faf du Plessis the top prize. His first came with the Titans could a good position and he was their accelerator pedal, his second was a rescue act, which helped his team crawl out of a hole. The two knocks had one thing in common: they were both scored at faster than a run a ball. Du Plessis has climbed to third in the overall batting rankings.
Bowler of the week: A joint award to Albie Morkel and Ethy Mbhalati for combining in devastating fashion to reduce the Lions to 5/5 in their match on Friday. You can't ask for more from two quicks.