Easterns vs KwaZulu-Natal at Benoni
Rain briefly threatened to disrupt Easterns' victory party on Wednesday, but despite two brief interruptions, the weather gods were unable to prevent them from beating KwaZulu-Natal by 79 runs at Willowmoore Park.
Had the match been washed out, the visitors would have gained two points they barely deserved for a decidedly below-par performance. Easterns' second victory in as many matches at their Benoni home was no more than they deserved for the determined way they had set about their task.
The foundation was laid by left-handed opening batsman Mike Rindel. Moved up from the middle order, where he had failed to make an impression against Border, Rindel revelled in the position he had filled so effectively for Northerns in recent seasons before moving to their near neighbours.
The 37-year-old former international completely dominated the scoring as he blasted 128, his ninth century in day-night cricket in South Africa, off just 131 balls, including 18 fours, before offering a catch to wicketkeeper Dylan Jennings off Ross Veenstra.
Of his team-mates, only Derek Crookes, with 37 in a fourth-wicket stand of 90 with Rindel and Pierre de Bruyn with 26 got past 20, a measure of how important Rindel's knock was in giving Easterns a formidable total of 232 for nine.
Sides chasing rarely win at Willowmoore Park. Border had failed to chase 190 five days earlier and the Dolphins always looked like struggling, especially when the decidedly rapid new-ball pairing for Easterns, Kenny Benjamin and Andre Nel, got into their stride early.
By the time the first rain break came, after 9.1 overs, the Dolphins were reeling on 32 for four, with the openers having picked up two scalps each and the asking rate creeping up to six to the over. Then, when the rain briefly abated, allowing the teams back on for three more overs before another brief hiatus, Benjamin struck, bowling Natal skipper Dale Benkenstein for two.
From that point, it was always going to be a matter of time before the victory was formalised, though for the second game running, Easterns saw a last-wicket pairing put together a sizeable stand. In fact, the one between Kyle Bender and Gary Gilder reached 50 before Gilder tried one big hit too many, off Gareth Flusk, and Albie Morkel was able to grasp the chance when the ball eventually came down.
Last man in Gilder, sedate to start with, had opened up in an astonishing assault on Crookes in the 40th over, smashing four consecutive sixes, as he romped to 36, the top score for the visitors.
It was never going to be enough to get them close, with the damage done early by Benjamin and Nel, who finished with identical figures of three for 25 from their nine-over spells as the Dolphins were shot out for just 153.
The man of the match award, however, rightly went to Rindel.