The Warriors will face the Highveld Lions in the T20 Challenge final at the Wanderers on Sunday after getting the better of the Cape Cobras.
Jon-Jon Smuts’ team held their nerve to knock out the Cobras by 15 runs in the second semi-final at Buffalo Park in East London on Wednesday evening.
The Cape side suffered a major blow shortly before the toss when Proteas all-rounder Vernon Philander pulled up with a strain during the warm-ups, and was forced out of the contest.
Philander’s absence was glaring in the Cobras’ run-chase of 173 for victory, after the Warriors ended on 172/7 in their 20 overs.
After opener David Bedingham had struck a sparkling 73 off just 39 balls (7x4, 4x6) to lay the platform, the Cobras’ middle-order fell away badly.
When Bedingham made his way back to the dug-out, the target was reduced to just 60 runs off 51 balls, with seven batsmen still remaining.
But without Philander’s experience to guide them home, the Cobras limped to 157/8 as the Warriors once again delivered a masterclass in death bowling.
The veteran was missed in the bowling department too.
Without Philander to take the new ball, even though seamer Dane Paterson was included at the expense of left-arm spinner George Linde, the Cobras opted for a makeshift opening pair.
So, instead of Philander and captain Rory Kleinveldt attacking the Warriors opening batsmen like they have done with aplomb all season, the new-ball was shared by JP Duminy and Nkululeko Serame.
This allowed Warriors opener Matthew Breetzke (60 off 38 balls, 3x4, 4x6) to settle in before unleashing a flurry of boundaries.
The 20-year-old did not let the early loss of his senior partner Gihahn Cloete deter him as he took the attack to Serame.
Instead of allowing the off-spinner to find any form of rhythm after the Powerplay was completed, Breetzke struck Serame for two consecutive sixes and a boundary as 18 runs came off the seventh over.
The former SA Under-19 international continued the onslaught in the next over when he belted Tladi Bokako for another maximum as the Warriors innings gathered momentum.
Breetzke found an able partner in captain Smuts (34 off 22 balls, 6x4) as the pair added 69 runs in just seven overs for the second wicket.
The Cobras required their skipper Kleinveldt (4/33) to step up at this point as he dismissed both Smuts and Breetze to halt the Warriors’ charge.
This was a good period for the Cobras as they continued to peg back the hosts by taking wickets at regular intervals.
However, the Warriors had another youngster in Sinethemba Qeshile up their sleeve, with the 20-year-old carving out a rapid 35 off just 21 balls, which ultimately proved the difference between the two teams.
Incredible grit shown by the Warriors to pull themselves back into a game that looked like it was getting away from them.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) May 1, 2019
The Warriors go on to win the match by 16 runs, and with that, book themselves a Final against the Lions.#CSAT20Challenge pic.twitter.com/fNkfF9HlpZ