Mangaliso Mosehle played the innings of his life to set up a straightforward run-chase for the Unlimited Titans and victory over the Sunfoil Dolphins by seven wickets with 19 balls to spare in the RamSlam T20 Challenge final at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday night.
The Titans had sent the Dolphins in to bat and stuck to their basics well as they restricted them to 159 for five in their 20 overs. It was a challenging enough total in a final, but Mosehle blasted 87 off just 39 balls to rush them to their target in only 16.5 overs.
The 25-year-old Mosehle has always been highly-rated by the Titans, but coach Rob Walter has had to be patient and back the talented Duduza product long after many others have called for him to be dropped. In the nets, Mosehle is one of the cleanest ball-strikers in a team of great batsmen, but, often impetuous, he has struggled to produce innings that really matter.
But he is the sort of batsman who always looks to take the game forward, and on Saturday night he played what could be the defining innings of his career as he slammed six fours and seven sixes to win the final almost single-handedly.
There were enough streaky shots to keep the Dolphins interested, but the skill and talent was abundantly evident as his confidence grew and grew. The highlight of his innings was when he launched a sensational assault on South Africa’s number one T20 spinner, Imran Tahir, hitting the first four balls of the 12th over for six, six, four and six as 28 runs came off the over and all but settled the contest.
“The key for us was to rotate the strike, but after I hit the first one down the ground, it felt good, so I told Henry Davids that I was going to take him on,” was the unassuming Mosehle’s explanation.
By the time Mosehle was out in the 15th over, caught-and-bowled splicing a hook at Kyle Abbott, the Titans needed just 12 runs off 34 balls; the fat lady had not only sung, she was downing beers somewhere in the heaving, festive capacity crowd that gave the final a tremendous atmosphere.
The experienced Davids, who became just the second batsman after Dolphins captain Morne van Wyk to score 2000 RamSlam T20 Challenge runs, was the ideal foil for Mosehle, finding the gaps to rotate the strike as he scored 35 off 38 balls and shared in a record 123-run second-wicket partnership off just 71 deliveries. The previous record for the Titans was 111 between Gulam Bodi and Heino Kuhn against the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers in 2006/7.
Davids was dismissed, caught behind off Abbott, straight after Mosehle fell, but the Dolphins had all but conceded defeat, the talismanic Kevin Pietersen telling Mosehle that his dismissal had merely delayed his drinking time!
Quinton de Kock (12) was dismissed, caught off a leading edge, off Andile Phehlukwayo’s first ball, but that was the last moment of joy for the Dolphins for an hour as Mosehle launched his withering offensive.
Van Wyk had earlier shot out of the blocks as he opened the batting for the Dolphins, scoring 29 off 24 balls as the visitors reached 47 without loss in the powerplay.
The wicketkeeper/batsman had timed the ball beautifully, collecting two fours and two sixes, but was then caught on the cover boundary off Junior Dala, punished for hitting a shot too well.
Young paceman Lungi Ngidi came on for one over midway through the innings and claimed the massive scalp of Pietersen, caught for 10 as David Wiese took a steepling catch on the midwicket boundary with impressive calm.
Davids then really put the Dolphins on the back foot as he removed opener Jonathan Vandiar (26) with his first delivery, leaving them on 76 for three at the start of the 12h over.
West Indian pro Dwayne Bravo, though, finally made his mark on the Dolphins’ season as he scored 53 off 30 balls, a clever innings full of nifty strokes as well as powerful ones, as he and David Miller (33 off 25) added 83 off 53 deliveries.
Titans captain Albie Morkel once again called on eight bowlers and they all had their moments.
Fast bowler Chris Morris was probably the most impressive, although he did not take a wicket in his four overs that cost 30 runs. Dala, the other fast man, took one for 33, while Wiese, called on to bowl the last two overs from the Hennops River End, ended the innings with the wickets of Miller and Bravo off successive deliveries.
But even if both those balls had been hit for six, it would not have stopped the Titans army from marching on, their ninth victory in 11 RamSlam T20 Challenge matches this season indicating a team that is on top of their game, marrying tremendous personnel with a spot-on tactical approach.