Top-class batting by David Miller and admirable bowling under pressure by Prenelan Subrayen and Andile Phehlukwayo took the Sunfoil Dolphins to a thrilling six-run win over the Unlimited Titans in their RamSlam T20 Challenge match at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.
Miller survived a crucial let-off on 31 as he doubled his score off the next 10 deliveries he faced, finishing with a brilliant 62 not out off 32 balls to power the Dolphins to 179 for four, a competitive total on a pitch that offered turn and the odd delivery that stuck in the wicket.
A ferocious late charge by Albie Morkel, who lashed 67 off 34 balls, was not quite enough to see the Titans to victory as they finished on 173 for eight.
The Dolphins had been sent in to bat on a hot afternoon and openers Morne van Wyk and Cameron Delport were off to a fast start as they added 48 off 25 balls in a first-wicket stand that would see Marchant de Lange suffer the sort of misfortune that would bring lesser men to tears.
He conceded six runs to Van Wyk when he could not catch a cut off the last ball of Junior Dala’s first over at deep backward point, not quite releasing the ball in time as he jumped over the boundary. De Lange then stepped forward to bowl the fourth over, from the Hennops River End, and was immediately launched back over his head for a majestic six by Delport, who then short-arm pulled for six and then top-edged a hook for four as the Titans conceded 22 runs off four deliveries.
Chris Morris and Morkel were much harder to hit as just 13 runs came off the three overs they bowled in the powerplay, and the Titans managed to remove Delport (25 off 18) in the sixth over when he hit a low full toss from Dala straight to deep backward square-leg.
That brought the star attraction, Kevin Pietersen, to the crease, and he and Van Wyk added 40 off 32 balls to leave the Dolphins dangerously poised at 88 for one in the 10th over.
But the vastly-experienced Morkel (4-0-28-2) is a crafty bowler and he managed to remove Pietersen for a run-a-ball 22, caught at deep midwicket off a sweep, and he also bowled Van Wyk for 41 off 29 balls.
The Titans had managed to exert some pressure on the Dolphins thanks to Morkel’s double-strike and tight bowling by spinners Tabraiz Shamsi (4-0-31-0) and Henry Davids (3-0-14-1), and the visitors had reached 145 for four as Shamsi bowled the penultimate delivery of the 18th over to Miller.
The international is not the sort of batsman you want to give a life to at that stage of the innings, but the hapless De Lange did just that, putting down a comfortable catch behind square on the off-side as the left-hander tried to cut the wrist-spinner over the infield.
The momentum shifted almost immediately as the last four balls of Morris’s next over disappeared for 6-4-4-4 off the heavy blade of Miller and the carnage continued in the final over, bowled by De Lange, who would finish with the ugly figures of none for 48 in three overs.
The sensible, fluent support of Cody Chetty (21* off 16) allowed the Dolphins’ unbroken fifth wicket to add 63 off just 35 balls as the visitors finished with a flourish.
The Dolphins struck a crucial blow in the second over of the Titans innings as the in-form Quinton de Kock (11) just popped a catch to extra cover off Subrayen and, with seamer Phehlukwayo further clouding the run-chase with the wickets of Grant Mokoena (6) and Heino Kuhn (5) in successive overs, the home side were in strife at 54 for three in the eighth over.
The experienced Davids looked focused as he opened the batting and had reached 31 off 26 balls before he tried to sweep left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, and was bowled around his legs as he helped the ball on to his own stumps.
Off-spinner Subrayen’s action has come under the lens in the past and, although it still wouldn’t be called smooth, the most notable feature of his bowling on Sunday night was how slowly he delivered the ball and how hard it was for the batsmen to get after him.
Farhaan Behardien (11) didn’t get all of an attempted big hit and was caught at cow-corner; Morris (14) hit a six and a four and then got himself into a tangle trying to push Subrayen away on the leg-side and presented a simple return catch; and Mangaliso Mosehle (11) mishit a full toss to cow corner.
Morkel and Mosehle had added 48 off 24 balls and mounted a strong late charge, with the big-hitting left-hander launching Maharaj for three sixes and two fours as 30 runs came off his last two overs.
Phehlukwayo, replacing the left-arm spinner at the Hennops River End, then bowled an outstanding penultimate over that cost just four runs and it left Kyle Abbott with 24 to defend in the final over.
Morkel hit a four and a six, but Abbott also hit the blockhole a couple of times and it all ended as a contest when the power-hitter was run out by Chetty as he desperately tried to run a second to deep square-leg.
Morkel hit five fours and seven sixes in all in his innings, but it was not enough to save the Titans from a poor batting display in which Davids was the only other batsman to pass 20.
Subrayen finished with four for 22 in his four overs, the third best figures ever for the Dolphins in T20 cricket and the best for them against the Titans. Robbie Frylinck holds the overall record with five for 16 against the Highveld Lions in Durban in 2012/13.
Phehlukwayo finished with two for 29 and bowled with impressive skill and nerve for a 19-year-old.
It was a top-class all-round effort by the Dolphins and a poor one by the Titans; while a clutch of KwaZulu-Natalians turned in excellent performances, there were only a couple of Titans who could say the same.
And a dropped catch also made a massive difference in the end.