Morkel leads Titans to win
A quickfire 56 by Albie Morkel took the Nashua Titans to victory by four wickets off the final ball in their Standard Bank Pro20 match against the Gestetner Diamond Eagles at SuperSport Park on Sunday.
A target of 170 looked to be out of the Titans' reach when they bumbled their way to 108 for five after 15 overs, but Morkel unleashed a beastly onslaught in which he clubbed two fours and five sixes as he sped to a 23-ball half-century.
Before Morkel's late savagery, the Eagles looked in control as they defended what seemed a modest total on a fine batting pitch.
Once Francois du Plessis was dismissed by Ryan McLaren for a blazing 33 off just 19 balls (6x4, 1x6), the Titans found boundaries hard to come by as the Eagles' slower bowlers served them exceptionally well.
Cliffie Deacon may not be the quickest new-ball bowler around, but he bowled his four overs on the trot up front, conceding just 24 runs and dismissing Titans captain Martin van Jaarsveld (13).
Gulam Bodi took a while to get going and had scored a run-a-ball 23 when the Eagles introduced their two spinners, Nicky Boje and Thandi Tshabalala, who both bowled wonderfully well.
Bodi was undone by a marvellous piece of flight and dip by Tshabalala as he top-edged a slog-sweep and the big-hitting Gerald Dros (14) was similarly beaten the ball after he had clubbed the off-spinner over cow-corner for six.
Tshabalala bowled his four overs out and took two for 27, but then Morkel came into full bloom, the runs flowing in flood-like proportions in the next two overs after Pro20's leading spinner came off.
Morkel plundered 20 runs off successive overs from Victor Mpitsang and Johan van der Wath to leave the Titans requiring 15 off the last two overs. Ryan McLaren conceded eight runs in the penultimate over, before Farhaan Behardien, who contributed a valuable 23 not out off 18 balls, spanked Van der Wath's first ball of the final over through the covers for four. Morkel eventually holed out with two runs needed off three balls and, with the scores tied, Van der Wath bowled a wide off the last ball to send the Eagles back to Bloemfontein bemused and beaten.
Jacques Rudolph had earlier flayed his second successive half-century before the Diamond Eagles innings became bogged down and went down the drain to 169 for seven.
Rudolph, who scored a breezy 66 against the Warriors in midweek, blazed 61 off 44 balls on Sunday, with six fours and three sixes, but the regular falling of wickets proved costly for the Eagles.
Rudolph and Morne van Wyk, who scored 27 off 20 deliveries, looked in control in an opening stand of 69 off 53 balls, but there were regular dismissals thereafter as the Titans fielded tightly and their bowlers kept focus on a pitch that looks full of runs.
A miscued lofted on-drive off Morkel's first delivery cost Van Wyk his wicket and wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn then fielded brilliantly, hitting the stumps with a scrumhalf-style dive pass, to run out Boeta Dippenaar (14).
The Eagles were then 96 for two after 11 overs and a score of over 200 was still on the cards. But Rudolph last concentration as he skied a short ball from the precise Alfonso Thomas to mid-off and the Eagles were unable to cram as many runs as they would have liked into the last six overs.
Brendon Reddy, the most accurate of the Titans bowlers with one for 23 in four overs, removed the dangerous Van der Wath (18) when a straight full toss was skied to square-leg and the Titans finished strongly as he and Dale Steyn conceded just 21 runs in the last four overs.