The Eastern Province Jumbos went to the top of the Standard Bank Cup log with a thrilling six-run win over the Border Bears at Buffalo Park on Wednesday night.
It was a victory which looked for much of the game as though it would go the other way, as Border appeared to have judged their tough run-chase perfectly. Once again, though, their frailty under pressure eventually told.
Chasing a daunting target of 261, Border appeared to have laid the foundations for vicotory as they reached 228 for four, with less than a run-a-ball required over the closing overs. But a couple of dubious shots, an unlucky run out and Mornantau Hayward's slower ball proved decisive for EP, as Border lost their last six wickets for just 22 runs.
Three times Hayward picked up wickets with his well-disguised slower ball, although he saved himself some acute embarrassment after putting down two caught and bowled chances in the same over.
It was a waste of some fine batting higher up the order from openers Laden Gamiet and Ian Mitchell who saw off the impressive Mfuneko Ngam and Meyrick Pringle before taking apart the rest of the EP attack in a stand of 85.
Gamiet's demise for 57 only cleared the stage for Craig Sugden whose 84 looked to have put Border on the brink of victory. But when he was part of a middle-order collapse which featured a duck for Mark Boucher, the game turned decisively in EP's favour.
With seven runs needed off eight balls, Makhaya Ntini skied Hayward to bring down the curtain on a compelling game.
Earlier, man-of-the-match Carl Bradfield struck a fine 91 as EP built what turned out to be a winning total after being put into bat by their hosts. That the score was eventually as imposing as it was was also the responsibility of the veteran Dave Callaghan, who struck an unbeaten 37 off just 17 balls as the overs ran out.
Callaghan and Justin Kemp combined to take 19 off the penultimate over from the otherwise impeccable West Indian paceman Vasbert Drakes.