Jozi Stars 115 for 2 (van der Dussen 59*, Siboto 1-18) beat Cape Town Blitz 113 for 7 (Behardien 23, Hendricks 2-21) by eight wickets
Jozi Stars claimed the inaugural Mzansi Super League title with a barnstorming eight-wicket win over Cape Town Blitz in the grand final at Newlands. Blitz lost their talisman Quinton de Kock early, having chosen to set a total, and never recovered. They limped to 113 for 7 on a slow, slightly two-paced pitch that eased out in baking afternoon sunshine, allowing Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen to steal the show, and seal the title, with an 86-run second wicket stand. Van der Dussen raised his third fifty in a row.
Already unsettled by the illness that ruled regular opener Janneman Malan out before the game, Blitz were in big trouble by the second-over dismissal of de Kock, upon whom they have relied so heavily to get this far. De Kock scored 412 runs for Blitz in eight MSL innings, Malan 305 in nine, while no-one else in the squad came close to those numbers. Asif Ali was next best with 150, but 80 of those came in his very first innings of the tournament. Over-reliant on de Kock's brilliance, Blitz floundered when he failed.
After two half-chances in the first over, bowled by Simon Harmer, it was Beuran Hendricks who struck the vital early blow. Two balls after de Kock had slashed him over point for the first boundary of the innings, Hendricks surprised the left-hander with another lifter. De Kock lost his shape and sent a swirling top edge towards midwicket, where Reeza Hendricks sprinted backwards, keeping his eye on the ball plunging towards him out of a brilliant blue sky, and finally dived at full-stretch to hold the catch inches from the turf. While there were a few twists and turns thereafter, that play essentially sealed the game.
Dawid Malan struggled to 3 from the first 16 balls he faced before cracking three boundaries in three balls off Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier, and then got out attempting a fourth, chipping a drive to mid-off. His dismissal meant Blitz ended the Powerplay at a paltry 29 for 2.
Mohammad Nawaz and Asif Ali came and went quickly, adding just seven runs to the total between them, and halfway through the innings Blitz were going nowhere slowly at 54 for 4. They continued to stumble, Kyle Verreynne mis-reading a slower one from Rabada to be trapped in front of his stumps for 23, and Andile Phehlukwayo needlessly run out chasing a second run as the score dipped to 80 for 6 with just under five overs to go.
While Nono Pongolo didn't feature with the ball today, he pulled off an acrobatic catch at third man to get rid of Blitz captain and their last hope Farhaan Behardien in the 17th over. Pongolo positioned himself to catch an upper cut off Beuran Hendricks, but the momentum carried him over the boundary, where he expertly parried the ball back into play and then leapt back himself to pull off the dismissal.
Without a sizeable score to defend, Blitz gambled on their strike bowlers up front. Dale Steyn beat Reeza Hendricks' outside edge three times in a row in the first over, and then burst one through Ryan Rickelton's defences to make a mess of the stumps. He was kept on for three overs, with two slips in place, but Reeza Hendricks and van der Dussen were happy to play him out, even conceding a maiden.
Once Steyn and Nandre Burger were seen off, the pressure swiftly dissipated. Malusi Siboto leaked 12 runs in his first over, van der Dussen slamming three fours in a row through the off side, while medium pacer Ferisco Adams was carted for 14 by Reeza Hendricks, including a handsome cut over backward point for six.
With that, the required rate dipped under a-run-a-ball, and stayed there. Despite their wiles, Phehlukwayo and Nawaz were unable to break through, and Reeza Hendricks raised the fifty stand with a single down the ground in the 10th over.
Reeza Hendricks eventually clipped Siboto into the hands of Malan at deep square leg, but van der Dussen took on the returning fast bowlers, pulling Steyn flat and hard for six and drilling Burger over mid-off to motor into the 40s. He raised a perfectly-paced 49-ball fifty with a cut off Adams in the 17th over, and took the equation to 5 required from 19 balls with a second characteristically clean hit through the covers in the same over.
Van der Dussen's crisp hitting has raised his stocks notably through this tournament, but he has also won friends and fans with his self-effacing, team-first approach. Fittingly, he left it to his captain Dane Vilas to hit the winning runs, who clubbed Burger through midwicket to spark hugs, handshakes and a booming fireworks display around the ground.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town