Paarl Rocks 130 for 4 (Delport 84, Magala 2-15) beat Nelson Mandela Bay Giants 129 for 8 (Second 37, Bravo 3-22) by six wickets
Cameron Delport's second fifty of the Mzansi Super League and an incisive spell from Dwayne Bravo guided Paarl Rocks to a six-wicket win over Nelson Mandela Bay Giants at a sunny Boland Park. Delport's hitting secured a vital bonus as Rocks chased down Giants' 129 for 8 in 15.2 overs.
Needing to score at 6.5 an over at the beginning of their chase to win outright, or at 8.1 for a bonus-point win inside 16 overs, Rocks progressed in fits and starts until the 10th over, when Delport ignited the charge against Jon-Jon Smuts' left-arm spin. He hammered two enormous sixes over the leg side, and was the fortuitous recipient of a second life via a dropped catch near the boundary, as Rocks went after the bonus point that would secure their trip to Johannesburg on Friday.
Rocks had taken just 37 off the Powerplay, losing Henry Davids in the process, and when captain Faf du Plessis fell for 6, driving Aaron Phangiso into the hands of Chris Morris at deep extra cover, Rocks needed a boost. Delport gave them exactly that, taking Smuts on and then reverse sweeping legspinner Dyllan Matthews for two boundaries in his first over of the match.
Giants were hamstrung by the absence of Imran Tahir, who would have been a challenging prospect on a pitch that played a touch on the slow side and took spin throughout. Without the challenge of a strike bowler for the conditions, Rocks were in full control when Delport raised a 33-ball fifty in the 12th over.
Delport brought up a fifty stand with Aiden Markram - largely a bystander as Delport took control - by flaying Junior Dala to the midwicket boundary in the 13th over, following up his pull with an even meatier shot that landed on the grass banks. That left Rocks with a target of 28 in three overs to secure a bonus point, and Delport swiped two more sixes off Phangiso and Sisanda Magala, both over deep square leg, to push his team closer.
He was bowled attempting another big hit off Magala from the very next ball, and when Bravo picked out Heino Kuhn at deep square leg with a pull in the same over, Rocks needed to score nine from the 16th over, bowled by Phangiso. David Wiese slogged the first ball over midwicket, let a wide pass him by, and then secured a victory that sparked wild celebrations with a skied hit that landed safely and brought two runs.
The smallest ground in the MSL, Boland Park nevertheless draws committed home support, and Rocks performed a celebratory lap to thank their fans after the game. Bravo even leapt up onto one of the dancers' podiums to perform a well-received rendition of his song 'Champion', and was joined by Mangaliso Mosehle to wild cheers.
The upbeat mood in the Rocks camp stood in stark contrast to the downcast Giants, who had stumbled through their innings and failed to put up a challenging total, the sporting surface notwithstanding. Four of the Giants batsmen passed 20, but none was able to force the issue against a disciplined Rocks attack.
Rudi Second's 37 was the highest score, but he reached that total without hitting a boundary, and it wasn't until Chris Morris strode to the crease at the start of the 18th over that the innings found some momentum. He hammered two sixes over midwicket off Dane Paterson, and one straight back over Bravo, who had been the pick of the attack.
Bravo started his work with the ball in the ninth over by setting Kuhn up with a slower ball before firing in a quicker one to strike him in front of the stumps, and then returned to work his magic at the death. Coming around the wicket, Bravo bowled Second around his legs and then removed Marco Marais via an excellent diving outfield catch by Markram.
Bravo also had a hand in two run-outs in the final over, invigorating the afternoon crowd as they realized their team had a straightforward chance to book their place in the play-offs. Finally, Bravo played the main role leading Rocks' celebrations with his trademark dance-moves, and Rocks will be hoping for more of the same when they meet Jozi Stars at the Wanderers on Friday night with the prospect of a Cape derby final if they are successful there too.