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Tshwane Spartans win high-scoring thriller by one run

Tshwane Spartans 203 for 5 (Cloete 80, de Bruyn 66, Bravo 3-31) beat Paarl Rocks 202 for 6 (Delport 73, Mendis 2-35) by one run

A good-sized Sunday crowd at the Boland Park got its money's worth, if not its home team winning when Tshwane Spartans beat Paarl Rocks by just one run in a high-scoring Mzansi Super League match. Spartans had been driven by their openers to a sizeable 203 for 5, with Gihahn Cloete's 80 and Theunis de Bruyn's 66 setting a strong foundation. The Rocks had good contributions through the order, with Cameron Delport's 73 the centrepiece, but they fell agonisingly short in their first match of the competition.

Spartans, who had lost their first match, held on barely, to get their first points.

The game was never in control of either side during the chase, with Delport's fireworks at the top of the order wresting the initiative back for the Rocks everytime the chase stumbled or a wicket fell. Delport's hitting, particularly on the leg side, was ferocious. But he showed that he could smash the ball to all parts of the ground too, especially when unfurling a switch-hit for six over point.

While he was around, the chase was within the Rocks' grasp. Delport maintained only one tempo throughout his innings, and Spartans seemed to be quickly running out of ideas. Swapping out Shaun von Berg for de Bruyn had yielded dividends while batting, but it meant AB de Villiers had only five bowlers to call on, and couldn't throw the ball elsewhere with Delport creaming all comers.

Eventually, the 20-year-old Lutho Simpala made the key strike, keeping one fast, full and straight and hitting timber when Delport's attempted late cut failed to connect. When he fell, the equation read 67 to win off 32 balls, and with Delport striking the way he was, the target seemed within reach.

The wicket led to two quiet overs in the 17th and 18th, but Mangaliso Mosehle put things back on an even keel in a 17-run over off Rory Kleinveldt. However, with 13 needed off the last over, neither Mosehle nor Patrick Kruger could find the boundary, and that made the difference in the end. They did come desperately close, with Kruger having hit one almost over long-on. But Dean Elgar leapt backwards and though the ball burst through his fingers, it hit his face and rolled inside, without having gone beyond the boundary even though the fielder's backwards momentum carried him over the rope.

When Spartans batted though, it didn't look like the game would come down to such fine margins. De Bruyn began by peppering the straight boundary in particular with vigour, and Cloete showed excellent temperament in playing the supporting role in two partnerships, without ever becoming bogged down himself.

De Bruyn had the majority of the strike in the opening partnership, and did the majority of the scoring too, with 101 raised in ten overs before he fell. The last man the Rocks would have wanted walking in with such a platform was de Villiers, and the Spartans captain promptly set about destroying the bowling, seemingly picking up from where he had left off in the previous match, which had brought him a whirlwind half-century.

De Villiers even switch-pulled Dane Paterson - a shot only he in world cricket could have conceptualised, let alone executed - and Spartans seemed well on course for a 220-plus target. It came down to Dwayne Bravo's proven wiliness in T20 cricket to rein the total in. Bravo - who got his 450th T20 wicket in the game - made the key strike by getting de Villiers to hole out to fine leg. Cloete continued to clobber the ball, nailing several slog-sweeps, until he was caught behind. The Rocks fought back admirably with only 25 runs coming in the last four overs, and would have felt reasonably confident heading into the break. As it turned out, they had conceded just one too many.