Temba Bavuma keeps his cool to propel Lions to T20 final
CAPE TOWN – Temba Bavuma's experience and Wiaan Mulder's youthful exuberance propelled the Highveld Lions into the CSA T20 Challenge final.
The Lions will face the Dolphins on Sunday after defeating the Warriors by seven wickets.
Mulder ensured there would be no nervous final moments as he dispatched Mthiwekhaya Nabe's first ball of the last over for six when half a dozen runs were required for victory.
The playoff was billed as a contest between two different styles of playing T20 cricket. Robin Peterson's Warriors have been adventurous throughout the competition and have been playing boldly in line with the global mantra.
The former Proteas all-rounder, who has been positively influenced by spending a few seasons in the coaches' dug out in the Caribbean Premier League, gave his players the license to go out there and thrill. It hasn't always proven successful, but it has been very entertaining with previously unheralded players such as Wihann Lubbe, Aya Gqamane and rookie Tristan Stubbs really enjoying the freedom to express themselves.
The Lions, in contrast, have a more measured approach where they rely on the experience and class of their bevy of Proteas batsmen to get them over the line. And it was Reeza Hendricks at the top before Bavuma and Mulder through the middle and end ensured the Lions' progression.
Hendricks matched Lubbe's pyrotechnics during the PowerPlay with a much more orthodox attack that provided the Lions with the early momentum they required.
But as the Warriors experienced during their innings, the loss of a wicket stems the run-rate as the Lions were hauled back into a contest by the left-arm spin duo Jon-Jon Smuts and Jade de Klerk.
Bavuma, though, never allowed the rate to escalate to any stratostraphic proportions by taking calculated risks, especially against De Klerk.
With the ball being angled in towards him, Bavuma opened up his left leg and swept powerfully to the mid-wicket fence for a couple of much-needed boundaries.
This allowed the Lions to remain ahead of the game even when Rassie van der Dussen chipped Nabe to mid-off with 20 runs still required off the final 3.2 overs.
Mulder, though, joined his skipper at the crease and kept his composure to take the defending champions home.
"I think we played almost the perfect game," Bavuma said. "There is lots thinking that goes out there and it's not just walking in and hitting the ball.
"The Warriors spinners made it tough for us out there as the wicket isn't getting any easier to play on. But we stuck it out and then Wiaan came in and played like the finisher we want him to be."
Warriors: 141/6 (Lubbe 52, Stubbs 37, Mulder 1/11, Phangiso 1/20)
Highveld Lions: 142/3 (Bavuma 48*, Hendricks 32*, Nabe 2/25)
Lions win by seven wickets