The Sunfoil Dolphins scraped into the final of the Ram Slam Challenge, beating the Cape Cobras by five runs after defending an imposing total of 178 in a thrilling, wildly swinging match in Durban on Wednesday.
Full scorecard: Dolphins v Cobras
They now move on to play the Titans at Centurion on Saturday. It should have been the Cobras, but they blew it.
Richard Levi had set them on the path to victory after a brilliant innings of 85 off 43 balls, chasing an improbable 179 for victory, taking them to the point when they needed just a run-a-ball in the last four overs.
From 132 for two, the point that Levi was dismissed, the Cobras lost their way in a series of hoicks and slashes which saw them lose six wickets for 41 runs.
It had looked mission impossible when the Dolphins had set the target with a wonderful display of power batting in which Cameron Delport (55) and Morne van Wyk, who went on to 57, put on 99 for the first wicket.
It was embellished by Kevin Pietersen’s almost nonchalant 27 off 10 balls, and David Miller smashing 19 off the last over to end with 33 off 24 balls.
There was further humiliation for the Cobras, who saw Wayne Parnell banned after bowling two no-balls to Pietersen. Rory Kleinveldt had to finish an over that cost 18 runs.
Yet that total was incredibly countered by Levi and Wayne Parnell (27 off 22) setting a Ram Slam record for the powerplay of 77 runs.
The Cobras could have survived the dismissal of Parnell, and of Andrew Puttick, who followed the next over for three, with a bit of calm and intelligence.
But when Levi went, hitting wearily to be taken at long-on off a slower ball from Cameron Delport after smashing six fours and seven sixes, the Cobras lost confidence, and the Dolphins raised the pressure.
No one was able to take a grip, Lesiba Ngoepe’s 32 being the last stand. No other batsman got above nine.
The Dolphins, though, must have been shaken after setting such a formidable total.
Theirs, too, was was an amazing powerplay, bringing up 49 runs. Of those, 36 came off seven balls, all from Delport with four sixes – driven and swept – and three fours: Only 13 were run.
Morne van Wyk merely looked on bemused, having contributed just six. There were 18 dot balls: the equivalent of three overs, which showed Delport’s acute patience awaiting a bad ball and making something of it.
The halfway point came with the Dolphins on 84-0; but one interesting point was that in those following four overs, Delport did not cross the boundary.
It was not until the 12th over that he reverse-swept Robin Peterson for a one-bounce four. Four balls later he was superbly taken by Justin Ontong, making ground to wide long-on.
After Van Wyk skied one to mid-off, having run up his 57 off 49 balls (6×4, 1×6), Pietersen came in with four overs to go. First ball, he chipped one dangerously close to mid-wicket. That was the sighter. Then he got into the swing, taking a six and four off Mthokozisi Shezi in an over that cost 15 runs.
Next over he flicked a no-ball full toss from Parnell way into the stands.
That’s when the wheels came off for the Cobras, and Parnell in particular. His first free-hit ball was a wide, his next another no ball which went for four — and he is off, out of the attack.
The Cobras had a massive let-off when Pietersen mis-timed a good delivery from Paterson to be taken at long-on, having notched (only) 27 off 10 balls (2×4, 2×6).
Thereafter, at 156 for three, it was a free-for-all, with Miller’s grand slam taking the Dolphins on to the high ground at 8.9 an over. It looked enough. Ultimately, it was.
SUNFOIL DOLPHINS: CS Delport, MN van Wyk (capt, wk), KP Pietersen, JD Vandiar, DA Miller, K Zondo, DJ Bravo, AL Phehlukwayo, KA Maharaj, RJ Engelbrecht, A Myoli
CAPE COBRAS: RE Levi, WD Parnell, AG Puttick (wk), JL Ontong (capt), LC Ngoepe, RJ Peterson, OA Ramela, RK Kleinveldt, D Paterson, M Shezi, SA Engelbrecht