Martin van Jaarsveld thrashed the fastest Standard Bank Pro20 half-century in vain as the Highveld Lions beat the Nashua Titans by 45 runs in their semifinal at Liberty Life Wanderers on Sunday.
The Titans were chasing 189 for victory and Van Jaarsveld had them on track with a tremendous display of strokeplay, racing to his fifty off just 19 balls to beat Loots Bosman's previous record of 22 deliveries for the Eagles against the Lions in Potchefstroom last season.
Van Jaarsveld's clean hitting, using largely orthodox strokes, saw him deal almost exclusively in boundaries, striking nine fours and three sixes in his 58 before Dumisa Makalima took a fine catch running around the cow-corner boundary to intercept another six-bound blow off Tyron Henderson.
Henderson had Francois du Plessis (19) caught behind off the next delivery, but the Titans were still on track on 106 for four after 11 overs as Albie Morkel blasted two sixes in his rapid 18.
But the defining moment of the match perhaps came off the first ball of Friedel de Wet's second spell as Morkel unleashed a fierce pull and Blake Snijman somehow clung on to the rocket at deep square-leg, back-pedalling and looking into the sun as he also negotiated the boundary rope.
After that stunning catch, it was a cruise for the Lions as they picked up wickets at regular intervals.
De Wet struck again three balls later as he had Farhaan Behardien caught behind for one and the Lions' new-ball bowler returned the outstanding figures of two for 18 in his four overs.
The Lions were also brilliantly served by their other opening bowler, Garnett Kruger, who snapped up the key wicket of Gulam Bodi (0) and then bowled Aaron Phangiso first ball in a superb, fiery opening over of the innings.
Spinners Justin Ontong and Werner Coetsee also kept their composure on a flat pitch with Ontong taking two for six in two overs and Coetsee finishing with two for 20 in 3.5 overs.
The Titans were eventually bowled out for 143 as Alfonso Thomas added 17 quick runs, but by then they were well beaten.
Rapid scoring by the Highveld Lions top-order had earlier been undermined by fine death bowling by the Titans as they scored 188 for seven.
The Lions, with their top four all contributing, had raced to 156 for four after 16 overs, but their acceleration was then stymied by brilliant bowling in the closing overs by leg-spinner Du Plessis, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
The Lions had been sent in to bat and were once again well-served by their opening pair of Snijman and Alviro Petersen, who raced to 59 off 36 balls.
Snijman (23) had just helped himself to two sixes off Albie Morkel when Thomas gobbled a miscued drive at wide mid-on off the same bowler.
Petersen plundered 43 off just 22 balls, with two fours and four sixes, before he sliced spinner Phangiso to deep cover.
The Lions had slipped to 73 for two in the eighth over, but they continued to race along on a benign pitch as Henderson and Vaughn van Jaarsveld added 69 off 42 balls.
Henderson eventually also holed out off Albie Morkel, for 30 off 19 deliveries, which included two sixes, but Van Jaarsveld thrashed three sixes in his 45 off 30 balls before he was beaten and bowled by Phangiso.
The Titans then clawed their way back into the contest, Steyn being particularly impressive as he bounced back from his mauling at the hands of Petersen and conceded just 15 runs and took two wickets in the 18th and 20th overs with wonderful full-length fast bowling.
Lions captain Neil McKenzie managed to hit three fours in his 24 not out off 19 balls at the death, and his prayers were answered as his bowlers and fielders kept their nerve to defend 188.
Pace bowler Morne Morkel, who took the new ball and delivered the penultimate over, was the best of the Titans attack, conceding just 22 runs in his four overs, while Du Plessis did well to concede 35 in four.