Cape Town - Jon-Jon Smuts started the tournament with a match-winning
century against Gauteng and finished it with another match-winning batting
performance to carry Eastern Province to a convincing 31-run victory over
Northern Cape in the final of the Africa T20 Cup at the Oudtshoorn Recreation
Ground on Saturday.
Smuts innings today of 40 off 24 balls (5 fours and 2 sixes)
was not the highest score of the Eastern Province total of 165/6 with Colin
Ackermann making 46 off 31 balls (4 fours and 2 sixes) but in the context of
the match it was decisive. He and Eddie Moore put on 62 runs without loss in
the power play overs to which Northern Cape were only able to reply with 36/1
at the same stage.
That they were not able to get back into the match
thereafter says a good deal about the all-round quality of the Eastern Province
team. Smuts finished as leading runs scorer (196) from the 5 innings he played
at this year’s tournament while Sisanda Magala (12) was the leading
wicket-taker closely followed by Solo Nqweni (11) from one match fewer.
Magala had an opening spell of 1/9 in 2 overs and he put
Northern Cape under pressure from the start, dismissing the latter’s star
performer of the tournament, Patrick Kruger, with his first delivery.
Another big factor in Eastern Province’s success has been
the quality of their fielding and today nobody exemplified it better than
wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin who took a brilliant diving catch to dismiss Jacques
Snyman while his stumping of Aubrey Swanepoel, another key batsman for the
losers, was of similar quality.
Northern Cape never managed to put partnerships together
with only four of their batsmen reaching double figures.
Once again, as is often the case in a final, experience
played a major role which was evident in the performances of Smuts, Magala,
Werner Coetsee and Swanepoel for their respective sides. The latter two pulled
the game back for Northern Cape when Eastern Province looked set for a total in
the region of 200.
Nevertheless the 165 that they made proved to be more than
enough in the end.
Province were undoubtedly the best team in the tournament, winning four of
their five matches by convincing margin. It was only in the first pool match
against Gauteng, which they won by 3 runs, that they were genuinely tested.