Marco Marais announces himself in style as Giants go top in MSL

Jon-Jon Smuts (C) of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants during the Mzansi Super League match between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Cape Town Blitz at St. Georges Park on November 20, 2019 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

Yet the record holder for the fastest 300 in first-class cricket also had the calm head of skipper Jon-Jon Smuts to thank in a record chase against Cape Town Blitz.

Marco Marais holds the record for the fastest 300 in all first-class cricket and he showed a glimpse of that dynamism with a crucial contribution in the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants’ thrilling five-wicket victory over the Cape Town Blitz in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday night.

This win puts guides them to the summit of the log and also represented the highest T20 chase at St George’s Park.

Faced with a massive target of 187 on a ground not known for being easy when batting second, the Giants made a poor start before Jon-Jon Smuts played a magnificent captain’s innings, muscling his way to 73 off just 51 deliveries.

He was the mainstay of the batting effort, but 26-year-old Marais stole the show, treating two international veterans in Dale Steyn and Wahab Riaz with utter disdain, ending with an unbeaten 40 off just 20, hitting four fours and two sixes.

Earlier, the Blitz wasted a solid platform.

They had reached 164/4 after just 16 overs, but only managed another 22 off the last four, losing five wickets in the process.

Quinton de Kock and Liam Livingstone both hit beguiling and attacking 39s, but were also guilty of leading the way in wasting good starts.

Batsman of the game

While Marais was the undoubted match-winner, Smuts’ brilliant half-century deserves praise. He came in at 1/1 and saw his side slump to 3/2. Surviving being caught off a no-ball, the Warriors stalwart was at his muscular best, initially being responsible before cutting loose once he found his mojo.

Bowler of the game

Without being at his mesmerising best, veteran Imran Tahir still played a big role in nullifying the Blitz’ fast start with the bat. Janneman Malan had hit him for one of the biggest sixes seen at St George’s Park, before he cleverly flighted a slower delivery that had the dashing opener caught at extra cover. He also removed the dangerous Asif Ali to finish with 2/26 from his four overs.

Turning point

Smuts seemed to have gotten away with a second dismissal off a no-ball from Wahab Riaz, seemingly leaving the Capetonians deflated. However, a blurry camera angle planted a big enough seed of doubt for him to be given out anyway. Undaunted, Marais decided he wouldn’t become bogged down, chancing his arm and hitting the Pakistani ace for 11 runs off the last three balls of the 17th over.

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