Johannesburg - Having earned their spot in the final via good fortune because of rain, the Free State Knights did some celebratory singing in Kimberley Friday as they won the first trophy of the newly structured domestic season.
In a see-saw match, the Dolphins’s top order batters kept their cool in the first half of their innings, with Patrick Kruger scoring a critical 61, and while his strike rate was just 115.09, the fact that he stayed at the crease, allowed his teammates to take risks.
With the ball, Alfred Mothoa was superb, targeting the stumps, he picked up 2/27. He was tasked with defending 21 runs in the last over, and while he wasn’t help by Raynard van Tonder’s ill-judged attempt at a catch at long-off that went for a boundary, he pitched the ball full, and cramped the Dolphins’ set batsmen, Jason Smith sufficiently to ensure, hugs, high fives and from coach Allan Donald, a celebratory high kick, for those dressed in orange.
Kruger had laboured at the start of his innings and it looked like he was putting pressure on his fellow top order batsmen. Rilee Rossouw was struck on the head by a bouncer from Thando Ntini and after a concussion test, clipped the next ball to short fine leg to be out for 15.
Kruger struggled with his timing, but the Knights’ skipper, Pite van Biljon provided some much needed aggression, hitting three fours and three sixes, in making 42 off 25 balls.
To Kruger’s credit, he raised his intensity following his captain’s dismissal, and hit a couple of sixes while adding three fours to the one he struck just after the end of the power play. Van Biljon was full of praise for the opener - going so far as to hand Kruger the “batter of the match” award which he been given - pointing out that in absorbing the pressure from Daryn Dupavillon and Ottneil Baartman, Kruger had taken on a heavy burden up front.
Farhaan Behardien weighed in with a useful 29 off 18 balls at the end, building on the advantage Kruger’s patience had provided.
RESULT | @KnightsCricket WIN BY 7 RUNS 🚨— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) October 22, 2021
Patrick Kruger's half-century and a disciplined bowling performance sees the men from Bloemfontein crowned #T20KO champions 🏆 #BePartOfIt pic.twitter.com/ouVMyRhFwU
While Dupavillon and Baartman were outstanding once again, the rest of the Dolphins attack succumbed to the pressure exerted by Van Biljon. Thando Ntini took two wickets, but conceded 46 runs in three wovers, while Smith, went for 36 in four.
Sarel Erwee, who scored 27 and Khaya Zondo with 43, shared a partnership of 51 for the third wicket for KwaZulu Natal, but like Kruger did for the Knights, in batting through to the 19th over, one of them needed to do the same.
That never happened, with Mothoa deceiving Erwee, who mistimed a cut to backward point, where Kruger held an excellent catch diving to his right, while Nealan Van Heerden had Zondo caught off a bouncer by wicket-keeper Wandile Makwetu.
Smith and young Bryce Parsons fought hard in a partnership of 52 for the fifth wicket to keep the Dolphins in touch, but Migael Pretorius, who finished with 3/30 and Mothoa were just better at the ‘death’.
Division 2 of the #T20KO was littered with phenomenal bowling performances ⚪️— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) October 22, 2021
Follow the #MSLT20 mini-draft at 17:30 on the MSL twitter page - @MSL_T20 - to see who will be joining the competition 👍 #BePartOfIt pic.twitter.com/s8bJZXmw1b
It was the Knight’s first trophy in 10 years and one which Van Biljon said was a tribute to the players for the hard work and endeavour they showed throughout the off-season.
ITEC Knights 176/5
Hollywoodbets Dolphins 169/6
Knights won by 7 runs