Tshwane Spartans 166 for 4 (van Biljon 48*, Wiese 31*, Nabe 2-24) beat Nelson Mandela Bay Giants 144 for 8 (Morris 42, Dunk 35, Wiese 3-30, Morkel 2-22) by 22 runs
The Tshwane Spartans will play the Paarl Rocks in the Mzansi Super League (MSL) final, after beating the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants by 22 runs in the playoff in Port Elizabeth. The Spartans are surprise finalists after half of their pool matches were washed out. Still, they snuck into the final three and then denied the favourites, the Giants, who were on top of the log for most of the competition, the chance to challenge for the trophy.
The Giants opted to play to their strong suit and chase under lights but a committed effort in the field from the Spartans, who were without Lungi Ngidi, Tom Curran and Wiaan Mulder, saw the Centurion-based side advance. Ngidi sat out as a precaution after experiencing discomfort his hamstring, which he did not want to risk ahead of a busy International summer, while Mulder has a back injury and Curran has left for the Big Bash League. Lutho Sipamla, David Wiese and Imran Manack came into the Spartans side and played their part in ensuring Mark Boucher's men will play in Paarl.
For Boucher, the result could not have come at a better time, with the former international wicket-keeper set to be unveiled as acting South Africa coach on Saturday.
The Giants will be bitterly disappointed with their performance in a crunch match, especially after Chris Morris' sensational 42 off 23 balls, which kept them in the hunt until the final over. They ended the tournament in third place, despite having the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in the competition.
The tournament's top run-scorer survived two inside-edges off Corbin Bosch's bowling that he could easily have played on to his own stumps, but was not granted a third life when Pite van Biljon ran him out at the end of the seventh over. With the required run-rate touching nine an over, Heino Kuhn wanted every single on offer, even the one when he nudged the ball to point off Morne Morkel's bowling. Kuhn ran hard, Dunk tried to run harder, but van Biljon picked up and threw in one motion and a direct hit at the striker's end found Dunk short of his crease.
Catches win matches
After his involvement in Dunk's run-out, Kuhn had to take on the responsibility of steering the chase but his former franchise team-mate had other plans. Kuhn cut Morne Morkel into the covers and another fielder may have deemed the ball too far away for them to cut off. Not Roelof van der Merwe, who spent years playing alongside Kuhn at the Titans. He launched himself to his right, went with both hands and took the catch low down to end Kuhn's innings on 5 and leave the Giants on 57 for 4, still needing 110 runs off 69 balls.
Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir have used this tournament to show South Africa's soon-to-be-announced selectors that they are first in line for the T20 World Cup and Morne Morkel has used it to show that he would be right beside them had he not retired last April. After van der Merwe took the catch to dismiss Kuhn off his bowling, Morkel could have had big-hitting Marco Marais caught at mid-off when he sliced one into the air but Wiese couldn't get there. With the next ball, Morkel had Marais under-edging onto his stumps, leaving the Giants on 83 for 5 in the 13th over. Morkel finished with 2 for 22 from his four overs.
Nice one, Nabe
Mthiwekhaya Nabe may not have played this match if Junior Dala was fit but the Giants will be pleased that he did. Not only did the 24-year-old take the two biggest opposition wickets, but he also claimed a stunning catch to keep the Spartans to a par total at St George's Park. In his first over, Nabe had Dean Elgar caught off a cutter by Chris Morris at mid-on to end a 21-run opening stand. Then, he returned in the eighth over, with AB de Villiers looking imperious on 27 off 14 balls and duped him with a slower ball that he hit to extra-cover, where JT Smuts took a straightforward catch. And Nabe wasn't done there. He was perfectly positioned at short third man in Imran Tahir's third over when Toby de Zorzi reverse-swept a googly and just didn't get enough elevation on the stroke. Nabe went for it with both hands, diving to his left and held on to add a 17th wicket to Tahir's tournament total.
Welcome to it, David Wiese
Wiese was roped in for the playoff match after Tom Curran left for the Big Bash League and was immediately thrust into the thick of things. He joined van Biljon with the Spartans in trouble on 79 for 4 in the 12th over. Together, they added 87 runs off 52 balls including 71 runs in the last six overs. Van Biljon's 48 off 32 balls will grab the headlines but Wiese provided important support. His strong cut shot was on display more than once but the highlight of his innings was the straight six he hit off Nandre Burger, which sailed over the sightscreen. Wiese also took three wickets, including two in two balls in the Giants' last over to seal the win.