Cape Town - Paarl Rocks will host the Mzansi Super League final after they booked their automatic ticket to the 2019 decider by edging out the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants by 12 runs in their decisive round 10 regular season clash at Boland Park on Sunday.
Isuru Udana played a key role with both bat and ball, while there were also other vital performances by Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi and Bjorn Fortuin as 168 for five played 156 for six.
In the end it was the home side that did just about enough to win the game and, with it, earn themselves a direct route to the December 16 final which will be played in the Cape Winelands.
Both teams finished their league phase commitments tied on 27 points, but the Paarl side ended ahead of their Port Elizabeth rivals by winning both games between the two sides to claim the No. 1 spot.
Consolation for the Giants, who held all the aces heading into the game, was a Qualifier they will stage against the Tshwane Spartans or Durban Heat – a position that will now only be decided on Tuesday.
That spot could have been confirmed on Sunday, but the Centurion-based side had their match against Cape Town Blitz abandoned due to rain at SuperSport Park, meaning that should the Heat beat Jozi Stars in Durban in two days’ time, they will meet the Giants on Friday.
Defeat will put the Spartans through to the Qualifier.
All eyes on the final double-header matchday were on the Rocks-Giants showdown, though, with the visitors certain to be disappointed that they did not do better than the final numbers suggested.
After winning the toss and putting in the hosts, they allowed them a flying start thanks to top-scorer Cameron Delport (39 off 22 balls), Henry Davids (31 off 27 balls) and Faf du Plessis (22).
That good start took Paarl to 101 for two at one stage, before the outstanding Imran Tahir (2/14) wove his magic – the Rocks slipping to 107 for five.
But Verreynne (36 off 20 balls) and Isuru Udana (27 off 21 balls) shared an unbroken 61-run stand that came in 6.3 overs to lift their side to a lowish, but competitive total.
Strong bowling by Bjorn Fortuin (0/19), who also expertly ran out key batsman Jon-Jon Smuts (16) at an important juncture of the game, as well as Shamsi (2/25) and Udana (0/32) then prevented the visitors from getting away to a flying start as they stuttered along to reach 92 for four in the 14th over.
And, despite Heino Kuhn changing gears during the latter part of his 58 off 43 balls (4 fours, 1 six), the acceleration appeared to come too late, while there was also not much in terms of support.
Ferisco Adams also landed some late blows to hand Paarl a key win.
- SA Cricket