Cape Town Blitz 213 for 3 (Malan 99*, de Kock 35, Moeen 25) beat Jozi Stars 198 for 5 (Hendricks 80, Bavuma 38, Steyn 3-25) by 15 runs
The season premiere of MSL 2019 was an evening to remember, as defending champions Jozi Stars nearly went the distance in a steep chase in front of a home crowd, before falling just 15 runs short to Cape Town Blitz's 213.
Opener Reeza Hendricks impressed with a 53-ball 80 for Stars, their new captain Temba Bavuma struck a crisp 15-ball 38, and Rassie van der Dussen hit 31 in 21, but Blitz's Dale Steyn struck twice in his final spell to take the fizz out of Stars' chase.
In the first innings, the fans at The Wanderers were given a show by Blitz opener Janneman Malan, who struck an unbeaten 99. Fate was in his own hands to reach triple figures, but he failed to get a run off the final ball of the innings. Brisk contributions from the rest of their batting order lifted Blitz to 213 for 3.
De Kock, Malan punish wayward bowlers
Stars had asked Blitz to bat at the toss, and that decision seemed to backfire right away when Malan and Quinton de Kock took 12 off the first over of the season. Malan flicked offspinner Simon Harmer to the fine leg boundary off the game's first ball, and that set the tone.
Kagiso Rabada then conceded 11 at the other end, with Malan hitting him for a four and a six. Malan followed it up by clubbing a flurry of boundaries off Dane Paterson. From 32 for 0 after three overs, Blitz finished the Powerplay on 69 for 0 as de Kock began to find his footing too.
Ample support for Malan
De Kock was the first to fall, out for 35 in the seventh over, failing to clear deep midwicket off Harmer. But Blitz didn't did the tempo drop. Moeen Ali walked in at first drop and tonked three fours and a six to add 25 in 17 balls, and after he was out caught in the deep to Dan Christian's slower ball, Liam Livingstone emulated his compatriot with 10-ball 21 that included three sixes.
Livingstone went hard, in particular, against medium-pacer Nono Pongolo, hitting his slower balls for two consecutive sixes. His dismissal in the 14th over brought in allrounder George Linde, and he added a further 24 in 13 balls to remain unbeaten at the end of 20 overs.
From the other end, Malan kept punishing any width that the pacers offered. His proficiency in off-side play was evident as he cut and drove Rabada, Paterson and Duanne Olivier through the innings. He anchored the innings after de Kock's dismissal while the batsmen at the other end went for riskier shots.
Malan entered the nineties in the 18th over by pulling Rabada for a six, but Dane Paterson and Daniel Christian kept him quiet in the last two overs. Needing a single off the final ball of the innings, he failed to connect with Christian's slower ball.
Bavuma, Hendricks return the favour
Stars opener Chris Gayle engaged in some cat-and-mouse play with Steyn, Anrich Nortje and Vernon Philander in the first three overs of the chase, outfoxing the pacers by making room and carving the short balls square on the off side. He made 17 off 12 before Steyn's slower ball dismissed him in the fourth over.
Bavuma then counterattacked with some nifty footwork, finding boundaries off the pacers to keep the run-rate hovering around ten an over. He lasted only 15 balls, but his strike-rate of 253 kept Stars in the chase, and allowed Hendricks to take a bit of time settling in at the other end. Hendricks was on 12 off 11 before he burst into life by taking 15 off the sixth over, bowled by Mohammad Nawaz. Stars were 68 for 1 at the end of the Powerplay, and needed 99 to win when they reached the halfway mark, having lost Bavuma in the ninth over.
Steyn shows his class
Van der Dussen was innovative against the spinners. He hit back-to-back fours off Moeen in the 11th over, and brought up Stars' 150 when he did the same against Linde in the 14th over.
That forced Blitz captain de Kock to turn to pace again, and after a tidy over from Magala, Stars needed 54 off 30 balls. Steyn returned to strike almost immediately. Van der Dussen tried to flick a full ball to the leg side but a leading edge sent the ball in the other direction, and Magala ran in from point to complete a diving catch and break the 53-run stand.
Hendricks kept Stars in the hunt with three fours in the next over, but he fell in a similar fashion to van der Dussen in the 18th over, miscuing a big hit off Steyn.
Stars needed 27 off 13 at that point, but they only managed 12 as Magala and Anrich Nortje closed out the game to earn Blitz a hard-fought opening-night win.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo