January 19, 2001

EP's semi hopes in the balance after tie with Easterns

Eastern Province and Easterns tied this match at St George's Park to leave the home side still unsure of their semi-final fate.

The two points Easterns earned are likely to have meant nothing, as they needed to win both their last two games to stand a chance of reaching the final four. What awaits EP is less clear, and as the men in red have played all 10 their league matches they will be avid watchers of developments in the competition's last league round on Wednesday.

As for the match in question, six runouts in all cast a pall of chaos as Easterns replied to EP's total of 224 for eight with 224 for nine.

EP blew their chances of posting an imposing total with the senseless runouts of James Bryant, Murray Creed and Dave Callaghan - moments of madness that threatened to undo the good work of Wayne Murray and Callaghan, who both reached half-centuries.

The home side comfortably overcame the loss of captain Carl Bradfield in the second over, largely due to an aggressive performance by Murray. The burly pinch-hitter slammed 57 off 51 balls with seven fours and two sixes, and shared in a second-wicket stand of 78 with Bryant.

Murray departed two overs after Bryant when he was well-held by a diving Pierre de Bruyn at backward point in the 18th over to give 17-year-old debutant fast bowler Brendan Reddy his maiden wicket. Despite Murray's dismissal, EP's momentum was seamlessly maintained by way of a partnership of 90 for the fourth wicket between Callaghan and Mark Benfield, who scored 41.

It took the total to 178 before Benfield was dismissed in the 35th over when he advanced up the pitch to a turning delivery from part-time off-spinner Aldo van den Berg and was smartly stumped down the legside by Dylan Jennings.

Creed, Callaghan, who grafted well for his 51, and Shafiek Abrahams, yorked by Reddy, followed in the space of the next six overs, and suddenly all was not rosy in EP's garden.

In fact, but for the impressive composure of number seven Robin Peterson, who marshalled the lower order superbly to score an unbeaten 27 off 26 balls, EP would have had to make do with a substantially smaller total.

Easterns' reply was solidly launched by Mike Rindel and Andre Seymore, who put on 60 for the first wicket before Seymore was caught behind off Creed for 31 in the 13th over. In his next over, Creed dismissed Deon Jordaan for two, which was followed seven balls later by the key wicket of Rindel, who was bowled by Abrahams for 27 with a straight delivery that failed to get up.

The heart of Easterns' batting had thus been ripped out for 10 runs in the space of 16 deliveries to reduce them to 70 for three in the 16th over. It was a triple whammy from which the visitors never should have recovered, but they did on the back of an industrious partnership of 85 between Derek Crookes and Van den Berg.

The stand was ended in the 37th over with Callaghan's superb throw from long-off which ran out Van den Berg for 33. Two overs later man-of-the-match Crookes, who scored 42 before hitting the first of his three fours on his way to 56, fell to a spectacular catch as Benfield sprinted in from deep backward square leg to take the ball just above the turf.

The bowler was Robin Peterson, and the left-arm spinner seemed to nail Easterns' coffin shut by dismissing Dylan Jennings and Gareth Flusk in his next two overs to make it 200 for seven in the 43rd.

However, De Bruyn, who scored 23, kept the visitors in the game with plucky batting. But just when the tale seemed to be twsiting again, the runout demon returned with a vengeance.

First Reddy fell to wicketkeeper Murray followed by, on the last ball with the match and a semi-final berth still in the balance, Andre Nel was run out by Bradfield running around from mid-on to mid-wicket as the batsmen attempted a desperate second run.