The HollywoodBets Dolphins did not have any answer to the left-arm spin twins of the bizhub Highveld Lions – Bjorn Fortuin and Aaron Phangiso – as they slipped to a six-run defeat in their CSA T20 Challenge match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
Although captain Phangiso did not pick up any wickets, he bowled his four overs on the trot and conceded just 25 runs, an outstanding effort that saw the required run-rate for the Dolphins go up from 8.92 after seven overs when be brought himself on, to 13.40 when he completed his spell.
Fortuin came on three overs after Phangiso and produced outstanding figures of three for 23 in his four overs, leaving the Dolphins in tatters on 128 for seven after 17 overs, chasing 176 for victory.
Robbie Frylinck ensured some anxious moments for the Lions at the rear end of the innings, belting the unfortunate Matt McGillivray for 21 runs in the 18th over, with two fours and two sixes, and finishing with a powerful 49 off 20 balls when McGillivray eventually had him caught at a wide mid-on in the final over.
The Dolphins had needed 20 off the last over thanks to an excellent penultimate over by Hardus Viljoen, who conceded just seven runs.
The Dolphins had started the run-chase positively, keeping up with the required run-rate as Morne van Wyk hit the first four balls he faced to the boundary. But the regular fall of wickets was a concern for them, including Van Wyk bowled by Viljoen for 17 off seven balls, and it exposed the middle-order to the wiles of the spinners.
Cody Chetty seemed to be guiding the run-chase with his 35 off 28 balls, but Fortuin removed him in the 11th over with a sharp, reflex return catch and then added the wickets of the dangerous Vaughn van Jaarsveld for 23 and Kyle Nipper for five.
The Highveld Lions total of 175 for five was built around the second-wicket stand of 59 off 41 balls between Rassie van der Dussen and Mangaliso Mosehle. Both batted in measured fashion as the home side elected to bat first, but were quick to spot the scoring opportunity, with Van der Dussen collecting a pair of sixes in his 41 off 32 balls and Mosehle hammering three sixes in his 45 off 25 deliveries.
Both were dismissed by leg-spinner Imran Tahir, in successive overs from the Corlett Drive End, and youngsters Nicky van den Bergh (18) and Devon Conway (13) battled to provide the big finish the Lions would have wanted.
Even though Viljoen (14*) and McGillivray (16*) added 26 off the last 15 balls of the innings, not many boundaries were scored by the Lions as just 38 runs were scored in the last five overs.
Tahir was the best of the Dolphins bowlers, doing the same job he has done on many occasions in the middle overs as he took two for 32 in his four overs, but the slow medium-pace of Cameron Delport (3-0-21-1) and the experience of Frylinck (4-0-34-1, conceding 14 in the 18th and 20th) in the closing overs was also very valuable for the Dolphins.
The Lions obviously still have a huge amount of work to do in order to make the playoff, but they have now closed the gap between them and the third-placed Dolphins to three points, with a game in hand.