Match Report

4 Mar 2017 & 11 Mar 2017 - First XI (1A) vs St. Augustines

On: 8 Mar 2017

The combination of a career-best match haul of eight wickets by Brendan Young, as well as solid half-centuries from each of Mathew Goles, William Hantam and Jonty Jenner, enabled Cape Town to overpower relegation-bound St Augustines in their Two-Day match at the Boon Wallace Oval.  The net result was the home side’s fifth outright victory in the competition this season, boosting them to third on the points table with one match remaining.  Having largely controlled the course of Day One to set up their position of dominance, Cape Town nevertheless still had some plucky resistance to overcome on Day Two before they finally clinched the victory, deep into the final hour’s play with lengthening shadows already proving a worry.   

Matters had seemed much more clear-cut at the start of the day’s play, when Young picked up where he had left off the week before to run through the visitors’ top order with the new ball – reducing them 20 for three (still 66 runs adrift of making Cape Town bat again) within the first hour.  Left-arm spinner Tommy Jansen soon bagged a fourth too almost immediately after the mid-morning drinks break, but thereafter the home side found the going considerably tougher as John-Joshua Bowers rallied a strong middle-order fightback.  Striking two sixes in his first four scoring strokes, Bowers took the fight to the bowlers from the outset, adding 40 inside nine overs together with his captain Warren Ekstraal to just about wipe out the first-innings deficit.  Despite the early boundaries, it was a partnership best characterised by a host of sharp singles stolen against the home side’s spin pairing, such that the chance of it all ending in tears was never too far away.  So it proved too, as some 20 minutes shy of Lunch Ekstraal was finally found wanting by a direct hit while attempting one quick single too many.

It was a bad blow to St Augustines to lose their batting kingpin in such a manner, but Bowers lofted an on-drive for four soon thereafter - putting the visitors into the black with five wickets still in hand - before engaging in another profitable stand, with Eliott Moses this time.  The burly left-hander was initially content to hold up his end while Bowers swept, pulled and drove his way to a 65-ball fifty (with three sixes and three fours), but gradually got in on the act himself.  Their partnership had thus grown to 49 in 15 overs when Bowers was put down at deep mid on, soon after reaching his fifty.  It might just have been the tipping point that changed the visitors’ fortunes, but Jansen was not to be denied as he promptly castled Bowers with the very next delivery anyway.

Thereafter, all remaining St Augustine resistance revolved almost exclusively around Moses.  A burst of scoring accelerated him from 16* to 31* in the space of 13 balls, but Marc de Beer kept chipping away at the batting at the other end, striking in each of two successive overs as Moses was threatened with being left stranded.   Having struck six fours in moving up to 48* when joined by the last man, a straight-driven six took Moses to his fifty from 89 balls.  Aware of the responsibility resting squarely on his shoulders to boost the final victory target as high as possible, he struck two more sixes off successive balls soon afterwards to reach 70.  However, another quick single while attempting to keep the strike ended badly for the visitors with another direct hit, and Cape Town were left needing to score 120 for victory off a minimum of 51 overs.

It was not a total that offered much in the way of a realistic defence, but St Augustines’ weren’t done fighting yet.  Dinovan Ekstraal exploited an early wicket in the home side’s chase to strike twice in quick succession with the new ball himself, opening a window of hope for his side as Cape Town suddenly found themselves wobbling at 19 for three shortly after the Tea interval.  Indeed, had Jenner’s edge gleefully held at third slip before he had scored not been no-balled, the home side would’ve been 20 for four and anything might have happened from there.   Cricket is often described as a cruel game, but on this occasion it provided just the slice of luck that the Jersey teenager needed to break a run of two successive first-ballers.  He promptly straight-drove his next ball for four, and never really looked back thereafter.

With returning provincial player Neo Mlumbi providing sterling support at the other end, en route to his own highest score to date in his short Cape Town First XI career, the pair increasingly crushed any remaining chance of an against-the-odds win by the visitors.  By the evening drinks break they had posted their fifty partnership, and by the time that Mlumbi eventually holed out on the long on boundary soon after cracking his sixth four, the back of the task had been broken and the only worry was whether the umpires would take the players off the field for bad light – as had happened the previous week - before the final few runs required had been knocked off.  Indeed, it was that pressure that induced Mlumbi to go for the big shot off the last ball before the start of the final hour, but the home side was subsequently well served by Jenner, who kept the scoreboard ticking over with a host of singles to reach his maiden fifty for Cape Town from 92 balls faced (with a six and four fours) - before the winning runs were struck with 6½ overs still remaining.

The week before, it had not taken the home side long on the first morning to seize control of proceedings, skipper Geoff Dods returning from injury to win the toss and insert his guests on a spicy pitch offering assistance to the seamers.  The very early introduction of the more medium-paced de Beer into the attack produced immediate dividends, as he dismissed both visiting opening batsmen by the end of his third over to leave Saints struggling at six for two barely a half-hour into proceedings – a situation that soon deteriorated even further to 18 for three, and even that was eked out painfully from their first 17 overs as Cape Town’s seamers enjoyed complete dominance over the bat.

However, veterans Keenan Bowers and Warren Ekstraal thereafter stabilised matters for the visitors, adding 70 for the fourth wicket to take Saints to within 20 minutes of the Lunch interval without further loss.  The first introduction of spin during their stand helped boost the ailing scoring rate considerably, the last eleven overs of their stand bringing 56 additional runs.  It was eventually spin that also ended that only hiccough to the home side’s progress though, Jansen getting one to keep low that castled Bowers for 39 (six fours) at this point.

Ekstraal remained to shepherd his side to the Lunch break on a relatively decent score of 98 for four, but it was all one-way traffic in Cape Town’s favour after the interval.  Their pace spearhead Brendan Young began it all by striking in the very first over of the afternoon session, giving wicket-keeper Clinton Botha the 150th catch of his Cape Town First XI career, and though Ekstraal reached a 61-ball fifty in the next over with his sixth four (to go with an earlier six), he was next to go as Young tempted him to hole out on the deep square leg boundary.  His injudicious dismissal introduced a frightful retreat by the remaining visiting batting, their last five wickets falling for twelve runs in barely six overs as Young swept to a second consecutive five-for in home games.

With their opponents thus knocked over cheaply for just 124, the home side’s opening pair of Goles and Botha then further extended that advantage with a flurry of boundaries as they raced to 41 without loss against the new ball bowlers in the first ten overs of Cape Town’s reply.  The back-up bowling slowed the tide of their scoring though, Ekstraal quickly breaking the stand with his leg-breaks as he had Botha lbw for 23 from 35 balls to help peg back the home side to 57 for two from 19 overs.

However, Goles then found an able partner in Hantam, who after the Tea interval went after the bowling in typical style - cracking seven fours from his first 33 balls faced to dominate a fifty partnership raised in 10½ overs together that got the scoring rate back on track again.  Sweeping Cape Town to a first-innings lead with 26 overs and eight wickets still in hand, Hantam passed 1 500 career runs for the Cape Town First XI (at just 48 innings needed to get there, he shares the record with Dominic Telo over the last 20 years) before his ninth boundary raised his fifty from just 59 balls faced.  Goles too followed soon after with his own half-century, having also struck nine fours but requiring 105 balls to reach the milestone in his more sheet-anchor role.

At 144 for two, with two very well-set batsmen at the crease and more than 20 overs still available before the compulsory declaration, matter were consequently looking grim for Saints.  However, opening bowler Dinovan Ekstraal then rejoined the attack and promptly dismissed Hantam as the first of two wickets in successive balls for the seamer.  That breakthrough introduced a serious middle-order wobble for the home side, who by the end thereof had lost four wickets for just six runs in 3½ overs to slump quickly to 150 for six – three of those four belonging to Dinovan Ekstraal.

It might have been worse yet, had a sharp chance offered by Matthew Olsen to cover before he had scored also been taken.  He survived though, counter-attacking in his own inimitable style to strike a six and two fours in his 29 from 37 balls, while sharing a stand of 45 in twelve overs with Goles to boost Cape Town to just shy of the 200-run mark.  That stand ended in the closing five overs of the innings when Goles finally fell hitting out, having made a Cape Town First XI best score of 72 from 154 balls and having struck eleven fours along the way.  Olsen fell in the next over though, as the visitors rallied belatedly to knock over the last four wickets for 15 runs in four overs – Dinovan Ekstraal claiming the final wicket to end with a five-for of his own – but not before the home side had already established a mighty 86-run first-innings lead, an advantage that went a long way towards ensuring the match’s eventual outcome.