Cobras clinch Ram Slam T20 title over Knights
It was third time lucky for the Cobras as they were crowned champions of South Africa's domestic 20-over competition, after losing the final in each of the last two seasons, with a 33-run win over Knights in Cape Town.
But it was neither of their big name national players, Hashim Amla or Dale Steyn, who put in the performance that mattered. Omphile Ramela's career-best 54 off 34, four wickets for Dane Paterson and five catches from Justin Ontong sealed the deal for the men from the Cape.
The Knights barely turned up for the chance to challenge for the trophy. After holding the Cobras at bay for the first 16 overs of their innings, they came under assault from Ramela and Kieron Pollard and could not recover with the bat in reply. Only two of their batsmen managed scores of over 15 as they started slowly and crumbled later on to hand the Cobras victory.
The Cobras were in early trouble when both openers were dismissed in the first nine overs. Richard Levi, who finished the competition as its top-scorer, was run-out for one and Amla was bowled for 26 walking across his stumps to Obus Pienaar.
Ramela and Dane Vilas began doing a repair job but the Cobras were still in a shaky position when Vilas was deceived by a Dillon du Preez slower ball and offered a catch to long-on to depart for 29. In the 13th over, the Cobras were stuttering on 72 for 3 and needed an urgent injection of intent.
It was up to Pollard to do that. He upped the tempo with Ramela, who allowed Pollard a two-over sighter to find his feet. At the end of the 16th over, the Cobras had only reached 101 for 3, thanks to tight bowling from Shadley van Schalkwyk and du Preez, before Pollard got going.
He took ten runs off a Malusi Siboto over, and then combined with Ramela to plunder 16 in the 18th off his countryman, Andre Russell. Ramela scored 11 off the next over, in which he reached his first T20 fifty off 32 balls, before being dismissed which left it up to Pollard to push the Cobras over 150. He smashed 18 runs off the final over, bowled by Russell, to set up a challenging chase.
The slow-burn from the Knights blunted that chance early on. They could not get Steyn away and their run-rate did not reach six an over until the final over of the powerplay. That was when Reeza Hendricks took on Paterson but the aggression was shortlived. Pollard dried the runs up at his end before Robin Peterson took the first wicket when he had Gerhardt Abrahams caught by a diving Levi at short cover for 9.
The wicket came in the midst of a boundary-less four-over period, broken only when Rilee Rossouw pulled George Linde, the joint highest-wicket-taker of the tournament, to fine leg. Rossouw and Hendricks kept the Knights in the hunt but when both were caught by Ontong, a return catch low in his follow through and a superb effort off Paterson at mid-off respectively, the Knights had raised their white flag.
They lost 6 for 17 between overs 14 and 17 and gave Pollard his best figures of the tournament, 3 for 21. With 51 runs needed from the last three overs, there was only one winner and the Newlands crowd rose to their feet to greet the final ball, and the trophy. Both teams qualify for next year's Champions League T20.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent