North XI win State of Origin
Cape Town - Faf du Plessis hit his second successive fifty of the Festival of Cricket at Newlands on Saturday and Albie Morkel served up a reminder of his finishing abilities as the North XI snuck past the South XI in a tense State of Origin match to clinch the R500 000 prize on offer.
An excellent Twenty20 clash ebbed and flowed over Saturday evening, and eventually saw Morkel take the 13 runs required off the final over to complete a three-wicket win with just one ball to spare.
Defeat was a cruel blow to the South - and in particular seamers Rory Kleinveldt (3 for 24) and Beuran Hendricks (2 for 25), who bowled superbly - as they were left to lament a lack of batting depth in their ranks.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, South openers Hashim Amla and Henry Davids put on 83 for the first wicket in under 10 overs, but there were few contributions down the order in a final total of 153 for nine.
Amla hit a predictably classy 57 from 40 balls and was well supported by Davids, who took advantage of a reprieve when he was caught off a Chris Morris no-ball to strike 39 off 32 deliveries.
However, South captain JP Duminy (11) and David Miller (19) were the only other batsmen to make it into double figures in a line-up that had Robin Peterson batting as high as number six.
By comparison the North had Morkel batting at eight and David Wiese at number nine, ensuring that they had plenty of firepower to overcome a few wobbles.
Graeme Smith kick-started the North's chase by taking 15 off the third over from Lonwabo Tsotsobe, but the South XI hit back when Kleinveldt dismissed Smith (21 off 19 balls) and Quinton de Kock in the space of three deliveries.
That brought Du Plessis to the middle in the fifth over, and he batted intelligently throughout, varying the pace of his innings according to his team's needs even as wickets fell at the other end.
The chase looked on track until he was caught one-handed by Wayne Parnell off the bowling of Hendricks to depart for 58 from 45 balls, leaving 18 required from the last eight deliveries.
But, while the dismissal may have made the South favourites, the North had Morkel at the crease and he smashed Parnell for a huge six over wide long-off and then clubbed another boundary through extra cover to seal the match and the healthy cash prize.
Faf du Plessis and his North XI team celebrate (Gallo Images)