March 5, 2001

High drama as Boland draw with Eastern Province

MWP

After four days of nip and tuck, it came down to the last ball. You can accuse cricket of many things, but as an engineer of high drama, it is still hard to beat. We did not even have a winner, Eastern Province failing to find the boundary off the final delivery and therefore sharing the spoils with Boland - but that was as it should be. A draw it was - a result that dents both teams' hopes of making it into the final later this month.

After being set 269 to win from 74 overs by Boland captain Louis Koen, Eastern Province looked to have paced their run-chase beautifully. An opening stand of 102 between captain Carl Bradfield and Umar Abrahams was the perfect platform, and it was only when Bradfield was trapped leg-before by Neil Carter, for 85, by one that just cut back at the left-hander, that the momentum briefly turned Boland's way.

With the experienced Dave Callaghan at the crease and alongside him Robin Peterson, EP needed nine runs off the final over bowled by Bradley Player and had the fire-power to do it. Player must take enormous credit for a disciplined over under great pressure, his task helped by all nine outfielders taking up their positions on the boundary edge.

In fact, with four needed off the final delivery, wicket-keeper Steve Palframan wanted to join them as well, but umpire Barry Lambson ordered him back into a 'regulation wicket-keeping position'. Any debate about the interpretation of the laws was nullified by Peterson's inability to send the ball over the ropes and the game was drawn, EP falling three runs short of their target.

That they had to chase any kind of challenging total at all was largely the result of a wonderful maiden first-class century for the latest call-up to the South African one-day squad, Justin Ontong. Resuming on 81 overnight, the 21 year-old worked his way through what he readily admitted afterwards were 'the nervous nineties' to reach the landmark, eventually finishing undefeated on 131 as Boland declared their innings closed on 360-9.

"I went to bed early and just thought about those nineteen runs I had to score", Ontong said. "But I slept pretty well. I've been dreaming about this first-class hundred for so long now. It's now my second season and the only thing I said to myself was 'just be patient - it's going to come. Don't push yourself."

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