Match Report

18 Mar 2017 & 25 Mar 2017 - First XI (1A) vs Rondebosch

On: 28 Mar 2017

Cape Town’s final match of the 2016/17 season, a Two-Day affair against Rondebosch at the Boon Wallace Oval, provided a fitting finale by producing a tightly-contested, edge-of-the-seat finish.  The home side ultimately hung on to prevail by just six runs – the narrowest win by a margin of runs that Cape Town has experienced in the competition since losing by a single run to Green Point almost exactly 17 years previously.  Nevertheless, the result gave the Plumstead-based outfit their sixth Premier League win in nine matches this season, affording them a decent third-placed finish on the final points table.

It might be argued that Cape Town deserved the win that bit more than their guests, by virtue of producing a greater team effort than their opponents had managed – Rondebosch relied heavily on massive personal contributions by their captain Alistair Gray (with twelve wickets) and opening bat Grant Edmeades (with 161 runs) to stay in the contest, whereas a slightly more balanced Cape Town side had spread the workload more evenly in achieving a greater level of consistency.

It was nevertheless a very near-run thing though, with the final result only being decided deep into the final hour.  The home side had set their guests a daunting target of 223 for victory, although with a minimum of 70 overs available with which to get them (that ultimately ended up being much closer to 80 overs), the required scoring rate was perfectly manageable, provided that they could bat that long.  Cape Town would have been very confident in their ability to defend that total too, given that only twice in the last 20 years have they failed to defend a fourth innings target as high as 220 – and both those times were matches played away from home.  Still, any complacency that they might have been feeling was quickly put to the test, as the visitors’ reshuffled opening pair of Edmeades and Sean Hendrieck quickly set about establishing a decent launching pad for an assault on the target, cruising to 45 without loss inside the first twelve overs.

In one of many pendulum swings to come though, the introduction of Hilio de Abreu’s part-time off-breaks soon provided rich dividends, as he broke through with two wickets in four balls to bag his fourth scalp of the match and ultimately complete a career-best Two-Day bowling performance for the Cape Town First XI.  By then though, Edmeades was already well-established and going well, and now finding productive support from Jason Fourie, the pair took the total passed the 100-run mark with still just the two wickets down.  Indeed, with Edmeades reaching his second half-century of the match and Rondebosch sitting pretty with plenty of time, wickets and overs in hand, things were beginning to look increasingly grim for the home side.

Once more though, astute bowling changes swung the tide back in their favour again – a double-change breaking the third-wicket stand before reducing the visitors to four down by some 15 minutes prior to Tea.  Still, that brought the first-innings opening pair of Edmeades and Michael Pote together, who then safely navigated their side to the interval without further drama – by which stage exactly 100 runs were still needed.  Batting sensibly after the break too, the pair continued to whittle away the target – Pote turning over the strike continually with a host of singles, while Edmeades began stepping up his scoring rate as he passed 70 for the second time.  Having just posted the team 150 though, he was unlucky to again miss out on a century as an edge to off-spinner Matthew Olsen then popped up off the pad to allow a diving ‘keeper to get his glove under the ball.  The wicket of Edmeades for 80 from a patient 136 balls (with eight fours) was a vital breakthrough for Cape Town, particularly when Olsen then used the opening created to nip out another batsman soon afterwards too.

That brought Gray to the crease though, by far the leading opposition run-scorer against Cape Town over the past 20 seasons, and one of only two players to have managed to score 600 runs against them in that time.  Indeed, he would eventually boost that tally beyond 800 runs as he and Pote gradually reduced the target to just 40 runs still needed by 15 minutes prior to the start of the final hour.

With the game thus poised on a knife edge and just waiting for someone to take control of its final destiny, the home side’s spearhead strike bowler Brendan Young stepped up to do exactly that.  Having just been brought on for a final do-or-die spell, he responded with a match-winning burst – in his second over he castled Pote, added another scalp two overs later and then crucially in the over after that yorked Gray too, leaving just Rondebosch’s numbers ten and jack to get the 19 runs still needed.  It looked far more likely that Young would collect a third successive home match five-for, but somehow the last pair hung in there, and with eight overs remaining the visitors required just 13 more runs.  A lofted blow off Olsen that just cleared the fielder at wide long on then brought that down to single figures, but another attempted big hit off the next delivery only skied the ball, granting ‘keeper Clinton Botha the honour of taking the 4 500th catch to be held in the 349 matches that Cape Town has contested over the past 20 seasons.

That the home side had managed to set a target as high as 223 was entirely due to some resilient lower-order batting – and not for the first time in the match either.  Having begun Day Two in the handy position of holding an overall lead of 67 runs with all ten second-innings wickets intact, Cape Town were well placed to take the game completely away from their guests.  Instead though, left-arm opening bowler Andre Odendaal began the second morning with an inspired spell, claiming three for six to skittle the home side’s top order.  When Gray then followed this up with three quick wickets of his own, completing his ten-for for the match, Cape Town were left reeling by the mid-session drinks break – suddenly seven down already after barely an hour’s play on Day Two.

That regressed even further as Gray and Odendaal shared the first eight wickets evenly between them, with the overall lead having only increased to 141 by that point.  Not for the first time though, and definitely not for the last, fate switched its allegiances at this point, as Cape Town’s Jersey-based teenager Jonty Jenner finally found a partner in the vastly more experienced Olsen.  Ever keen on the counter-attack, the latter didn’t stand on ceremony in three times hitting two consecutive fours in an over, choosing an opportune time to reach the 40s for the first time since March 2015.  It might still have been a different story had a relatively straight-forward chance that Jenner offered to cover when 19* been held, but it wasn’t – and he seized the opportunity to reach his second fifty in three innings for Cape Town.  By that point he had already lost Olsen for a well-played 43 from 42 balls, but not before their stand of 66 for the ninth wicket had transformed the complexion of the match and boosted Rondebosch’s victory target to beyond the tricky 200-run mark.  Gray eventually claimed Jenner’s wicket the ball after he had reached his fifty, completing the leg-spinner’s third successive five-for or better against Cape Town (besides being the leading run-scorer against Cape Town over the past 20 seasons with 815 runs, Gray is also the second-highest wicket-taker against them, with 55 scalps now), but by then the home side had recovered their lost ground to the extent of now holding the advantage.

Cape Town’s first innings had followed a similar pattern on the first morning, when after electing to bat first after winning the toss, they again needed a strong fightback from the tail to rescue them from Gray-inflicted damage.  Opening with the new ball from one end and then bowling unchanged throughout the entire innings, Gray’s leg spin proved a constant problem to the Cape Town batting.  He didn’t begin dramatically though, taking a half-hour to claim the first wicket, while Botha used the two lives offered him to give the home side a decent start at 50-1 by just about an hour into the match.

However, the introduction of medium-pacer Lyle Rogers took immediate care of Botha as the first of two relatively quick wickets for him, and with Gray striking again the home side found themselves already four down by the mid-morning drinks break.  Three more wickets from Gray then followed in quick succession to give him his five-for and leave Cape Town languishing at 98 for seven half an hour before Lunch.  Indeed, when Kyle Verreynne then edged behind on 16* immediately afterwards, the home side’s misery would have been complete.  The catch went down though, and once again fortunes began to change.  The lower middle-order offered stiffened resistance, and the home side made it through to the Lunch interval without further loss.

The afternoon session was largely a two-man show featuring Verreynne and Gray, though Olsen also played a supporting role with a valuable 22 in another crucial ninth-wicket partnership that lifted Cape Town to three batting points.  He eventually became Gray’s seventh victim of the innings while hitting out in the penultimate over, but the final accolades were stolen by a stunning assault from Verreynne.  Hitting Gray for three consecutive fours to sweep passed an 87-ball fifty, he then cracked two fours and a six in the final over before the compulsory declaration, charging from 43* to 73* in the space of just nine balls faced.  His final innings of the season for Cape Town (he missed Day Two due to provincial selection), it was the perfect culmination of a wonderful season with the bat for the ginger-haired teenager - his last two months of the season producing 209 runs for twice out - and propelling Cape Town to a useful final total despite their earlier travails.

Commencing their own innings midway through the first afternoon, Rondebosch were soon in deep trouble.  Taking the new ball for the first time since the season’s opening month (which was also the last time that he had bagged a four-for), Cape Town skipper Geoff Dods wasted little time in dismantling the visitors’ top order with an opening spell that, within six overs, had netted him the first four wickets to fall, leaving them reeling at 33-4.

However, Edmeades stood firm, and having begun with a flourish that brought him three fours from the first two overs, he then settled in to become a major stumbling block to the home side’s progress, closing up one end completely.  Gray joined him immediately after the Tea interval, and in the only partnership of any consequence in the visitors’ first innings, the pair added 71 together for the sixth wicket to steady the ship somewhat.  Edmeades reached what would be his first fifty of the match from 115 balls faced, having added just one further four to his tally along the way, but just as he began accelerating he lost Gray on the brink of the evening drinks break.  That effectively robbed him of any further support, De Abreu running through the tail to claim his wicket as well (for 79 from 154 balls, with eight fours), before a late declaration conceded a 51-run deficit in order to have a 25-minute dart at Cape Town’s second-innings batting before the close.  The home side duly survived that testing period without loss, but Rondebosch made up for it on the second morning to set up an epic day’s play.