March 17, 2001

Free State turn tables on EP to win by four wickets

Free State produced a remarkable fightback to beat Eastern Province by four wickets in topsy-turvy Supersport Series Super Eight match which finished comfortably inside three days at Goodyear Park on Saturday.

After being skittled for just 110 in their first innings, Free State discovered the middle of the bat as if from nowhere, and succesfully chased a target of 258 which in the circumstances had looked well beyond them.

The Free State first innings was a sorry capitulation, as batsmen retreated into their shells and refused to take the attack to EP. How different it was on Saturday. Openers Andrew Gait and Kosie Venter put on 162 for the first wicket, the 150 coming up in the 30th over as the devils in the pitch were consigned to history and the batsmen took control.

Gait was particularly severe on anything loose, smashing ten boundaries and four sixes before he was first out for 74. His dismissal was typical of the approach he brought to his knock, bowled heaving across the line at Dave Callaghan one ball after smashing him clean over the ropes.

Gait's demise signalled a mini-collapse, but no more than that, as three wickets fell within the space of just three runs. With Louis Wilkinson providing valuable solidity in the middle order, victory loomed into sight. Appropriately, captain Gerald Brophy was at the crease as the winning runs were scored and Free State completed a victory which means absolutely nothing in terms of the Supersport Series, but does at least allow them to finish the season on a high.

Earlier, EP must have thought they had done comfortably enough to make the game safe, despite being dismissed for 187 in their second innings after resuming the third morning on 129-5. Only young South African schools captain Johan Botha (42)mounted any resistance, but a lead of 257 was a relative mountain for Free State to climb in the context of the match.