PAARL – They came in their numbers yet again. But for the first time in this Mzansi Super League they left with a smile on their faces. After suffering two consecutive defeats at Boland Park, the Paarl Rocks finally repaid their loyal fan base with a five-wicket victory.
The fact that it came over city rivals, the Cape Town Blitz, in the first all-Western Cape derby made it even sweeter.
It was also no coincidence that the Rocks’ change of fortunes coincided with Proteas captain Faf du Plessis debut for his new team. Du Plessis has shown over the years with the national team that his inspirational qualities have no boundaries in terms of getting everyone around him to raise their performance levels.
This was particularly evident in the field. Whereas the Rocks had conceded opening partnerships in excess of 100 in their two previous games, the home team remained calm despite Quinton de Kock’s (31 off 16 balls) blitz in the powerplay.
Du Plessis’s acute management of his bowlers was particularly key during this phase with the skipper keeping faith with his left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin. The local lad, who enjoys saying “I grew up coming to Boland Park watching the likes of Henry Davids”, repaid his captain’s trust with a metronomic spell of left-arm spin bowling.
Not only did Fortuin claim the massive scalp of De Kock, but he picked up a further three wickets to finish with the brilliant figures of 4/15 from his four overs. This Man of the Match performance restricted the previously unbeaten Blitz to 140 all out.
For a team low on confidence such as the Rocks it could still have been an awkward run chase, especially after Blitz spearhead Dale Steyn (2/21) removed both home team openers Aiden Markram and Henry Davids with just three runs on the board.
Enter Du Plessis again. Playing with all the composure that has seen him slay cricket giants like Australia in their own backyard, Du Plessis (54 off 39 balls, 7x4) worked his way calmly towards the target.
Although Du Plessis could not ultimately take the Rocks over the line when he was controversially adjudged to be caught off a ball that was above waist high, it was if the stars had aligned to allow Fortuin to hit the winning runs that sent the Boland Park crowd into a frenzy. @ZaahierAdams