Strikers in a tangle as Dolphins romp home
The KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins added to the woes of a Highveld Strikers side who have already failed to come up to expectations in their defence of the first-class Supersport Series title this season when they beat them by 99 runs in a Standard Bank Cup encounter at the Wanderers on Friday night.
The Strikers, already facing an uphill task in chasing a healthy 259 to win, were set back even further when, after they had slumped to 92 for five after 23 overs, the rain came down. When they returned, the target had beenreduced to 244 off 39 overs, meaning they required 152 off 16 overs at an asking rate of exactly 9,5.
The glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel was the presence at the crease of Andrew Hall and Ottis Gibson, but after the pair had plundered the required 19 off the first two overs back, Gibson was castled by Jon Kent for nine in his next over.
Hall hung around to reach an impressive 80 off 104 balls, before being last man out, trapped in front by Jon Bastow, but at the other end, Kent was adding the scalps of Clive Eksteen for a duck and Walter Masimula for a single. With Solly Ndima run out for just eight, the innings imploded for just 144 off only 33 overs.
The Dolphins got off to a flying start, having been put in to bat by Strikers captain Eksteen, with eventual man of the match Doug Watson and Ashraf Mall putting together an inspired opening stand of 162 in just 28.5 overs, before the latter was comprehensively castled by Gibson for 71.
The Barbadian, playing for his third South African province, was the only Strikers bowler to look as if he belonged at this level, with his superb return of two for 24 in nine overs helping to limit the visitors to 258 for seven, though that still represented a stiff asking rate of 5,73 to the over.
What certainly didn't help was the shock return of former Test star Brett Schultz. The left-armer, whose last provincial appearance had come nearly three years earlier, ironically also against Natal, although in the colours of Western Province, was a surprise inclusion for David Terbrugge, battling a finger injury.
The burly left-armer, who has been training with the Strikers squad for some weeks, was a pale shadow of the fiery strike bowler who collected 37 scalps in nine Tests and lasted just three overs, costing 31 runs, before being permanently withdrawn from the attack.
Mall, playing only his second match in the competition, has slotted in well, with 40 on debut against Western Province, and he and Watson proved ideal partners, matching each other run for run against a toothless Strikers attack.
Watson was the beneficiary of what appeared to be a piece of good luck when Hall hit the stumps from mid-wicket as Watson attempted a tight single on 77. The television replays available were inconclusive, although they created the distinct impression that Watson, who was thus given the benefit of the doubt by third umpire Andy O'Connor, had been caught short of his ground.
Unfortunately for Watson, it proved only a stay of execution and when the killer blow came, it was far more devastating. He was on 99 when he pushed into the off side and ran off Zander de Bruyn, only for the bowler to show superb reflexes, dashing to the ball and swivelling while down on his knees to knock down the stumps at the bowler's end and rob him of the milestone.