JOHANNESBURG – Lutho Sipamla stood to one side as two former Proteas captains and old mates chewed the fat after a protracted encounter at SuperSport Park yesterday afternoon.
AB de Villiers, the Tshwane Spartans captain, then beckoned Sipamla over and introduced him to Faf du Plessis, skipper of the Paarl Rocks and also the national team. The two shook hands and Du Plessis patted the 20-year-old on the back.
“Yes, it was the first time I’d met Faf. We just said our names, introduced ourselves and he said to me I’m bowling very nicely,” the right-arm fast bowler explained.
It was certainly another eye-catching display by the kid from Port Elizabeth, who picked up 3/19 in four overs on a difficult pitch for batting. It was arguably his most impressive display in what has been a grand arrival to the big time for a player who is just starting his professional career.
Sipamla claimed a wicket in each of his first three overs, including Du Plessis’ in his second and Dwayne Bravo's in his third, both breaking the rhythm for the visiting team.
“I felt like the wicket was a bit two-paced. If you bowled a hard length and tried to dig the ball into the pitch it would do something naturally with the pitch assisting you,” said Sipamla.
The Rocks could only score 121, never enough even on such a poor pitch. Nevertheless, they dragged the match into its final over, preventing the Spartans, who eventually won by four wickets, from claiming a crucial bonus point.
“I was sitting in the changeroom, I was very nervous. I still backed the boys, but yoh, my heart almost dropped for a second there,” said Sipamla. “Robbie (Frylinck) did the thing, and at the end of the day it’s a great feeling.”
Frylinck struck back-to-back boundaries - a six and four - off Dane Paterson in the final over to effectively seal a much-needed win for the hosts.
The Rocks will take pride from the grit they showed in stretching the game out for as long as they did, said Tabraiz Shamsi, who took 3/18 in four overs, including the wickets of AB de Villiers and Eoin Morgan.
“We lost the game today but in a funny way I see a lot of positives in it. It was such a small target but we took a strong batting line-up into the last over,” said Shamsi.
The win left the Spartans fifth but now just a point behind the Rocks as the Mzansi Super League heads into the final week.
“It’s a real log-jam in the middle (of the table) because that third place is still up for grabs,” Shamsi added.
The Spartans head to Sipamla’s hometown of Port Elizabeth on Saturday to face the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, while the Rocks play the Cape Town Blitz at Newlands on Friday.@shockerhess