Paarl Rocks 172 for 4 (Thomson 71*, du Plessis 61, Olivier 3-30) beat Jozi Stars 170 for 6 (Van der Dussen 83*, Mungroo 3-29) by six wickets
Having totaled 17 runs in three games until Sunday, Grant Thomson left behind his mark in the 2018-19 Mzansi Super League with a courageous 71 not out to keep Paarl Rocks alive in the competition, after a tight chase against Jozi Stars at the New Wanderers Stadium. Barring a reprieve owing to a missed stumping on the ball before he hit the winning runs - which arrived via a crunching extra cover drive - Thomson played a mature, and largely composed innings, giving the Rocks, facing a must-win, victory with three balls to spare.
Contributing in equal measure to the win was Faf du Plessis, who continued to dominate bowling attacks with his third half-century in four matches. While Thomson crucially stayed until the end, it was du Plessis who provided Rocks with the impetus to their chase, launching a barrage of boundaries in a domineering display that gave them the security against a brief death-overs stutter and come out unscathed.
As if the pressure of a must-win and a chase of 171 wasn't enough, Rocks had lost two wickets halfway through the third over when the two joined hands. Duanne Olivier hit Rocks with wickets off successive deliveries in his first over, first getting Cameron Delport to top-edge a pull by generating extra bounce, and then harrying Aiden Markram with pace to draw an inside edge onto the stumps.
Kagiso Rabada was even quicker in the next over, hitting upwards of 145-kmph consistently and beating the bat outside off. The downside of that sort of pace, however, is the ball flying off the bat even if the timing and connection are a little off, and once Thomson punched Rabada for a four through extra cover off the last ball of that over, Rocks quickly moved into the ascendancy.
Olivier undid his good work in his previous over by losing his lengths against du Plessis, who cracked him for a brace of fours. Thomson and du Plessis then closed out the Powerplay by pillaging 19 runs off Dan Christian.
Du Plessis was the aggressor through most of this passage. Pulling, driving and punching pristinely, he collected his first 20 runs at a strike rate of nearly 300. It meant Thomson could settle into neatly nudging the ball around into the gaps and turn the strike over, forming the ideal complement in such a situation.
Thomson shifted gears in the second half of the chase, starting with a six over deep midwicket off Pongolo that took him into the 40s. Du Plessis survived a close lbw call that same over, and then again in the first ball of the next over, when Rabada believed he had found his outside edge, as Stars were left frustrated.
With Thomson unfurling his own range of strokes, he eventually beat du Plessis to the fifty, getting there off 38 balls. The 100 of the stand came up off 64 balls in the next over, and in the over after that, du Plessis had his fifty, with a booming extra cover drive, as Rocks progressed clinically.
It was only when du Plessis fell to Christian in the 16th over, attempting a paddle to a ball that wasn't full enough and arrowed in straight to ping him in front of leg stump, that Stars found a way back in.
Dwayne Bravo came out swinging big from ball one but wasn't necessarily rewarded for it, as Stars tightened the screws, conceding just 12 runs between overs 16 and 18. The only blemish on Stars during that passage was Dane Vilas spilling a tough chance off Bravo's outside edge in the 17th over. Bravo took toll of the reprieve, swinging Dwayne Pretorious for a pair of sixes in a 17-run 19th over to take out the last semblance of parity from the contest.
Rocks also hit the right notes after electing to field, taking out the Stars openers inside the first four overs, Hendricks chopping one onto the stumps and Gayle falling to a blinder out of thin air from David Wiese at cover.
That left Rassie van der Dussen to do the rebuilding, and he did a fine job of it, starting with a 73-run stand with Dane Vilas. Van der Dussen crawled to 4 off 13 balls before breaking the shackles by thumping Mungroo over mid-off for four.
Van der Dussen manipulated the bowler's lines and lengths by using his crease well, and by the end of the seventh over, the recovery was fully on, with 41 runs having come in four overs. Van der Dussen's sequence of six, four and four off Bravo in the 11th over put Stars in sight of a big total. But unlike in the chase, he had no substantial support at the other end - barring a 17-ball 28 from Pretorius at No. 7 - and the difference was telling.