February 10, 2001

Northerns hit back to level semi-final series

Andy Colquhoun - MWP

Only two days previously, Jacques Rudolph struck a magnificent century and still saw his side Northerns beaten by another plucky display from Border as they took the most dramatic of 1-0 leads in this best-of-three semi-final of South Africa's domestic one-day competition.

On Friday night he fell eleven runs short of three figures, but this time enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing his side produce a sterling performance to level the series. It was a magnificent effort from the visitors, who had always looked the underdogs after Border had posted what seemed like an impregnable 271 for eight off 45 overs when they won the toss and decided to bat.

Chasing such a challenging target, a good start was always vital and that was duly provided by Rudolph's young team-mate, Johan Myburgh. He set the tone for the Northerns' run chase as he struck 44 runs at the top of the order in double-quick time. When his was the first wicket to fall, Northerns had already cruised to 50 without loss and the gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down.

With solid support from Martin van Jaarsveld (76), Rudolph then saw relative old hands Neil McKenzie and captain Gerald Dros finish the game off with 16 balls to spare.

Earlier, left-arm seamer Greg Smith must have thought his hat-trick of the final three balls of the Border innings was nothing more than a welcome bonus. Although he ran through Ian Mitchell (6), Vasbert Drakes (0) and then saw van Jaarsveld juggle the hat-trick catch tantalisingly before holding on, the Border effort in front of their own fans looked sufficiently imposing to earn them a place in the final.

Seventies from Craig Sugden, Steven Pope and Mark Boucher were the highlight of what looked like a ruthless Border batting display on a wicket that has always given runs away grudgingly. As it is, the sides will meet again on Sunday with a place in the final on the line.