Johannesburg — To the acclaim of all neutral observers and their own abundant joy, the Sunrisers Eastern Cape were crowned the inaugural Betway SA20 champions at the Wanderers on Sunday.
They defeated Pretoria Capitals, the favourites, with astonishing ease in a final everyone had to wait an extra day for and that nobody would have expected to be so straightforward.
The Sunrisers were a squad that not many had given a chance at the beginning of the tournament after two opening losses. At the heart of their rejuvenation was a 38-year-old left-arm spinner that ironically left Pretoria about a decade ago to undertake an adventure with another team in orange.
And it was that man, Roelof van der Merwe, that once again played a starring role to ensure the first Betway SA20 silverware will be heading down to Gqberha.
The “Bulldog” — as he is affectionately known — was at his best by snaring figures of 4/31. Van der Merwe took wickets at the top by removing Phil Salt (8) and Theunis de Bruyn (11) and then returned at the death to dismiss Eathan Bosch (15) and Miguel Pretorius (0).
Van der Merwe was spot on with his yorkers as he rifled the ball into the block hole that saw the Capitals limp to 135 all out in 19.3 overs.
The Capitals knew their total was a meagre one with only Sunrisers’ apprehension being able to prevent their victory.
Wayne Parnell’s team would have hoped to ramp up the tension through early wickets, and the impressive Bosch duly delivered when he sent Proteas white-ball captain Temba Bavuma back to the pavilion in the second over.
But that was a false dawn for Graham Fords’ team with Adam Rossington clubbing 57 off 30 balls to ensure the chase was always comfortable.
Rossington fully exemplifies the spirit of the Sunrisers with the burly Northamptonshire opener always playing with a smile on his face and backing his skills against any opposition.
He was arguably the one batter on either team to fully adjust to the conditions as he played freely on both sides of the wicket.
There were a couple of hiccups with young Jordan Herman (22) and captain Markam (26) falling as the target became closer, but there was never any doubt that the maiden championship title belonged to ‘The Orange Army’.
It was also only fitting that one of their young South African stars Marco Jansen that they invested so heavily in at the auction all those months struck the winning runs with a mighty cover drive that sailed into the stands to set off the celebrations.
Pretoria Capitals: 135 all out (Kusal Mendis 21, Rilee Rossouw 19, Roelof van der Merwe 4/31, Ottniel Baartman 2/22,)
Sunrisers Eastern Cape: 137/6 (Adam Rossington 57, Aiden Markram 26, Nortke 2/21, Adil Rashid 1/13)
Sunrisers won by four wickets