January 24, 2001

Natal defeat North West to finish top of the table

Natal claimed a consummate seven-wicket win to finish on top of the final standings and earn a semi-final against the fourth-place finishers. An inept North West were dismissed for 141 and Natal cantered to 142 for three to win by seven wickets with all of 12.5 overs to spare.

Not for nothing do North West turn out in maroon, because on the night - and for much of this seaon - they performed as mournfully as the bedraggled West Indies themselves. Played 10, lost eight was Potch plodders' lot in this competition this summer, and it wasn't difficult to see why. They batted as if they knew something Natal didn't, namely that the home side would not have many runs to chase, and their bowling and fielding fairly creaked with the resignation of impending defeat.

All that was left to Natal was to get the basics right, and this they managed without undue fuss. First they kept it tight to scythe through North West's batting, before building their reply around the composed Wade Wingfield's 73 not out.

Shaun Pollock was a late inclusion in the Natal squad following the early finish to the third Test against Sri Lanka and the South African captain plainly revelled in the relatively stress free conditions to take two for 10 off 8.2 immaculate overs against batsmen who didn't even try and forget who he was.

Left-arm wrist spinner Gulam Bodi was the other star, using flight and intelligent variations of pace to take two for 26 off his full quota. Burton de Wett scored 35 before being stunningly run out by Wingfield's throw from cover point, Arno Jacobs' 26 was sprinkled with five fours and Gary Outram fashioned 33 runs off 71 balls. The rest should and will be spared a mention.

Natal knew they needed just one half-decent innings to claim the points, and they got rather more than that in the shape of man-of-the-match Wingfield's fine effort. It lasted 78 balls and included 10 fours and three sixes. Most of his support came in a third-wicket partnership of 80 shared with captain Dale Benkenstein, who scored 20.