Fly Emirates 138 for 5 (Mohammad Iqbal 42, Afridi 23*) beat Emerging Cape Cobras 127 for 4 (Brand 69, Khan 2 for 13) by nine runs
Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi helped inspire a team full of baggage handlers and airline pursers to great things in Saturday evening twilight as the Fly Emirates team beat the Emerging Cape Cobras to qualify for the first final of the Emirates Airline Twenty20 festival.
The man the part-timers just call 'Boom Boom' scored a cameo unbeaten 23 with the bat in their total of 138 for 5 and then bowled four reasonably tight overs to finish with 1 for 23 and restrict the Cobras to 127 for 4. Afridi was engulfed by his ecstatic team-mates as they clinched the nine-run victory to go through to play unbeaten Sussex in the floodlit final at 7he Sevens Stadium, but it was far from a one-man success.
It was a case of experience conquering brash exuberance as a Cobras side of teenagers and two contracted players fell apart when seemingly within touching distance of their second win and a place in the final.
Their wicketkeeper and opening bat Derek Brand and captain Omphile Ramela had done their best to carry the side over the winning line with an excellent opening stand of 108 in 14 overs - comfortably the biggest of the two-day event.
Though Ramela went for 27, Brand continued to charge towards the first half-century of the tournament from 33 balls and with eight fours and a six. He added another three boundaries and had reached 69 before he took one risk too many and was bowled by Yasin Sikander.
At 115 for 2, Brand's would still have reached the final had the eased past 135 yet lost the game, but without his steadying influence the rookie Cobras lacked venom and belief. Fly Emirates captain Nigel Fernandes picked the perfect moment to bowl a maiden and, with the pressure at its maximum, the Cobras could only muster 11 runs from their final four overs to bow out of the tournament in disappointing fashion.
It was all cheers and high-fives for the Emirates side, however. Watched by their boss - airline vice chairman and Lancashire fan Maurice Flanagan - they put in their best performance over the two days.
For once their batting held firm on a crumbling pitch and steady contributions from opener Mohammad Iqbal (42), Arshad Ali (20), Afridi (23) and Kashif Khan (17*) proved enough to tame the Cobras.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport