Pietermaritzburg - Kyle Nipper played a key role with bat and ball as the KwaZulu-Natal Inland were crowned 2017 Africa T20 Cup champions after a six-wicket win over Free State at the Diamond Oval in Kimberley on Monday.
The all-rounder first took one for 25 in four overs to restrict the Bloemfontein side to 128 for five, before making a crucial unbeaten 38 (31 balls, 5 fours) to lead his side home with 13 deliveries to spare.
It was a solid performance in a strong all-round team showing by the side from Pietermaritzburg, who made amends for their 2015 disappointment when they ended runners-up, by going all the way.
KZNI, who beat Gauteng in Sunday’s semis, won the toss and opted to field first. It proved the perfect decision as Free State, winners over Namibia in their semi-final, were reduced to 12 for three thanks to two wickets from Kerwin Mungroo (2/24) and the run-out of key man Andries Gous (0).
Those wickets proved crucial early on, and despite a 68-run fourth-wicket stand between Karabo Mogotsi (42 not out) and skipper Patrick Botha (38), followed by 25 by Raynard van Tonder, the Free Staters always looked short of runs.
Nipper and Ruhan Pretorius (1/25) played important roles with the ball, while Gareth Dukes was miserly with none for 10 in four overs.
Free State needed early wickets if they were to have a chance and they got KZNI captain Lefa Mosena (4) and competition top run-scorer Sarel Erwee (19) with only 29 on the board.
But Grant Roelofsen (33) and Kushen Kishun (22) added 41 for the third wicket, before Nipper kept things under control in a 32-run fourth wicket stand with the latter.
But without wickets falling regularly, KZNI were always in control and they eased across the line in the 18th over to seal the win.