Cape Town - Nono Pongolo starred with bat and ball as Gauteng clinched the Africa T20 Cup final for the first time with a tense three-wicket win over Border in the Heritage Day final in East London on Monday.
The 29-year-old first claimed a career-best three for 20, before top scoring with a telling unbeaten 30 to take his side over the line, chasing 131 in a low-scoring affair at Buffalo Park.
Pongolo’s performance undid another brilliant all-round effort in the game from rookie Bamanye Xengxe, who first thumped an unbeaten 51 off 34 balls (3 fours, 2 sixes) and then claimed an exceptional three for 27 - both best efforts of his young career.
However, it was not enough as the visiting side celebrated the 2018 crown by getting across the line with four balls to spare.
The day had begun disappointingly for Border after they lost the toss and were put in to bat first. Their star man and competition’s outstanding batsman of this season, Marco Marais, who smashed unbeaten scores of 103, 106 and 75 in the group stage last week and then plundered 64 in the semi-final on Sunday, fell for a first-ball duck to Carmi le Roux (1/24).
His reliable co-opener, Gihahn Cloete, also lost his wicket first ball, dismissed by Nandre Burger who was the other star Gauteng bowler with three for 27, leaving the hosts on three for two.
Yaseen Vallie (two) and Jerry Nqolo (nine) followed to leave Border in a massive hole on 17 for four in the fourth over, before the middle order and tail gave them something to bowl at.
Xengxe, in his fifth game, led the way, with support coming from Standard Bank Proteas batsman Christiaan Jonker (37) as their side was dismissed with the final ball of the innings with 130 on the board.
Despite the locals chipping away at wickets, the away side made solid enough progress early on during the chase thanks to Delano Potgieter (23) and Temba Bavuma (27).
But four wickets fell for 31 runs in the middle of the innings as Gauteng slipped from 48 for two to 79 for six. Xengxe was the chief destroyer, with support offered by Clayton Bosch (2/21) as Border threatened a twist.
But Pongolo found an able partner in Carmi le Roux (23) to take the match by the scruff of the neck, with the former then clubbing a six at the start of the final over when seven were needed to settle the contest and seal the win.