Boucher powers Warriors to last-ball win
The first three matches of this season's Standard Bank Pro20 were all decided on the last ball.
On Friday night, the Cobras beat the Titans by five wickets in Cape Town. The Titans chose to bat and their innings started in inauspicious fashion when Blake Snijman was bowled by Charl Langeveldt with the first ball of the match. It didn't affect the batting though because Jacques Rudolph and Roelof van der Merwe repaired the innings with 45 and 65 respectively. Albie Morkel also contributed, his unbeaten 50 off 25 balls, was another statement directed at the national selectors who excluded him from the World Cup squad. The Cobras bowlers were all punished, bar Justin Kemp who took one for 15 in this three overs as the Titans ended on 175 for 4.
The Cobras response started gingerly as Andrew Puttick and Herschelle Gibbs departed for 3 and 26 respectively. Owais Shah helped to stabilise matters with 28 and Richard Levi's 68 set the chase up for a grand finale. Pierre Joubert was the most economical bowler, conceding just 29 runs in his four overs. The Cobras needed 22 runs off the last two overs and 14 off the last one and it was up to big-hitting Justin Kemp to finish the Titans off. He smacked a six and a four off the last two balls to hand the Cobras a nail-biting win.
The Cobras lived by the sword on Friday, and died by it on Sunday where they lost by four wickets to the Lions in Johannesburg. The Lions opted to bowl and did an excellent job in the Powerplay, giving away just 27 runs in seven overs. Levi and Gibbs were both dismissed for ducks while Ethan O'Reilly was the man responsible for keeping it tight and conceded just 22 runs in his four overs. Owais Shah hit three gigantic sixes in his 42, one of which went out of the ground. Justin Ontong was the Cobras' unlikely hero, scoring 56 off 30 and adding much-needed impetus to their line-up. They finished on 155 for 6.
The Lions chase started disastrously and they found themselves on 31 for four after six overs, with Alviro Petersen, Jonathan Vandiar, Neil McKenzie and new signing Gulam Bodi back in the hut. Jean Symes and Zander de Bruyn spent some time rebuilding which meant the Lions innings hit comatose levels. After 12 overs, they were 62 for 4, needing to score at almost 12 runs to the over to win. Symes broke the shackles with a six, the first boundary in 42 balls, and then de Bruyn cashed in and reached his half century. de Bruyn laid the platform but the Lions still needed 19 off the last over. Frylinck, who will play for the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, hit two sixes and a four off the last three balls to end the match in thrilling fashion for the Lions.
In East London, the Warriors began their title defence with a tense, two-wicket win over the Titans. The Titans were off to a rollicking start and brought up their 50 inside five overs. Rudolph's 58 off 44 balls was the top score of their innings. Justin Kreusch, who took 2 for 23 and Rusty Theron, who took 2 for 31, pegged the Titans back but Henry Davids' unbeaten 50 off 30 balls took them to a competitive 163 for 5.
The Warriors chase looked dead and buried at 65 for 6 in the 10th over. Their big names were out with Ashwell Prince being dismissed for 1, Davy Jacobs for 19 and Nicky Boje for 26. There was one big name left - Mark Boucher. The South African keeper put some serious doubts in the national selectors' minds when he took the Warriors over the line with an unbeaten 60 of 33 balls. Lyall Meyer's 36 off 28 balls was crucial and does not deserve to get overshadowed but will pale in comparison to Boucher's heroics.
Batsmen of the week: Three, sensational finishes that could not be valued any differently means that this week's award goes to the three men who effectively won the matches for their teams. Justin Kemp, Mark Boucher and Robbie Frylinck share this week's title.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent