South Western Districts qualified for the play-offs of the CSA T20 Knock Out competition, despite losing to the Lions in a Pool A fixture on Sunday.
The men from Oudtshoorn, will finish in one of the top two spots in the Pool on account of net run rate, while the Lions will nervously await the outcome of the afternoon match between Western Province and Northern Cape, with WP needing to improve its net run rate to overtake the Gauteng team on the log.
For all the determination and skill of South Western Districts players, the Lions will be furious about another poor display. Their form in the competition, by their own admission has been poor and after changing the composition of the starting team for Sunday’s match - and selecting an extra bowler - it was a catastrophic batting display that cost them the chance of securing their play-off spot.
The Lions bowlers did what was asked of them to limit South Western Districts to a below par total. Lutho Sipamla was excellent in the power play, varying his pace cleverly, while bowling wicket-to-wicket.
South Western Districts were 28/2 after six overs and it took a patient 41 off 38 balls by their captain Jean du Plessis, to get them back into the contest. Andre Malan (22), Onke Nyaku (18) and Jhedli van Briesies (24 not out) took SWD within touching distance of the 130-run mark, but on a pitch that didn’t hold many demons, it was short of being a genuinely competitive score.
Sipamla bowled his four overs in one spell, conceding 23 while picking up the wickets of SWD’s openers; Hanno Kotze and Yaseen Valli.
The Lions appeared to knock the back out of the chase with a 42-run second wicket partnership between skipper Ryan Rickelton (17) and Dominic Hendricks (23). They were comfortably on course to achieve the victory target in 18 overs - thus giving their net run rate the necessary boost to eliminate any concerns about the afternoon fixture - however their two set batsmen were dismissed within 10 balls of each other. Rickelton to an ill-judged sweep against Tshepo Molestane - while Hendricks chipped a slower ball straight back to right arm seamer Nyaku.
What should have been plain sailing, suddenly turned into a trip on choppy seas, and the Lions had to scrap to get home with just two balls remaining.
Once again SWD’s unheralded trio of seamers; Hershell America (1/29), Renaldo Meyer (1/28) and Nyaku (1/22) showed superb skill and discipline, to build pressure on the Lions. Left-arm spinner Sean Whitehead weighed in with a useful return of 1/18 from four overs.
Six Gun Grill SWD 129/6 (Jean du Plessis 41, Jhedli van Briesies 24, Lutho Sipamla 2/23, Sisanda Magala 1/18)
Imperial Lions 132/6 (Ruan Haasbroek 44, Dominic Hendricks 23, Heath Richards 1/15, Pheko Moletsane 1/18, Sean Whitehead 1/18)
Lions won by four wickets