In a match that had just about everything, including a Ross Veenstra hat trick (he took 6-34 overall) against his old province, the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins beat their traditional rivals Gauteng by seven wickets with 14 balls to spare before 5 500 excited spectators at Kingsmead last night. The victory kept alive the Dolphins' hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Standard Bank Cup. Their last pool match, against Eastern Province in Port Elizabeth tomorrow, will settle the issue. For Gauteng, whose record-breaking run of eight consecutive victories was broken, the defeat was academic as they have already qualified.

The nature of last night's match was determined by the very similar tempo of both innings. Both teams enjoyed a productive first 25 overs, then they both lost momentum.

KwaZulu-Natal enjoyed an excellent opening partnership of 112 between Doug Watson and Mark Bruyns chasing Gauteng's score of 197-8, but once Bruyns had departed, the scoring slowed as the softer ball came on more slowly and made strokes more difficult to execute.

First Jon Kent and then Watson perished trying to push the score along, and things suddenly began looking a little sticky for the home team. It was at this crucial stage that the experience of Andrew Hudson and a typically impish Jonty Rhodes came to the rescue as the two veterans added a brisk 62 to see the Dolphins home.

Rhodes, in particular, looked full of confidence, playing two astounding reverse sweeps off left-arm spinner Neil Fusedale who had commanded a great deal of respect from the batsmen to that point. The first, a full-blooded smash, went for a one-bounce four backward of point; the second, to a fuller delivery, was delicately guided into the third man area for three. Earlier, Gauteng were looking odds on for a 240 total after skipper Eldine Baptiste won the toss and put the visitors in to bat. This was due to the destructive Ken Rutherford who quickly announced his arrival for what might be his last competitive innings at Kingsmead, driving Baptiste for three fours in one over.

On a superb pitch for batting, Rutherford - in sublime form - and Adam Bacher almost effortlessly added 91 in 111 balls for the second wicket without looking remotely troubled. However, after going to an electrifying 50 in 47 balls, he contrived to miss a straight one from fifth bowler Mark Bruyns.

But, after tenderising the Dolphins' attack for what looked like a feast of runs, Gauteng failed to tuck in when it mattered. Man of the Match Veenstra, obviously, had a lot to do with it, bowling a double wicket-maiden that saw off Bacher (54) and Geoffrey Toyana at the beginning of his second spell. And then, a tumultuous last over saw Zander de Bruyn, Nic Pothas and Dean Laing departing in consecutive balls as they slogged for glory. It was "The Moose's" second hat trick against Gauteng, and it couldn't have come at a better time for his province.