McKenzie leads Lions to Pro20 title
Neil McKenzie blazed a quickfire half-century to race the Highveld Lions to victory over the Nashua Cape Cobras by six wickets with 14 balls to spare and clinch his first trophy in charge of the Lions.
Captain McKenzie came to the wicket in the first over, with the Lions two for one chasing 148 and scored freely after a sedate start, finishing with a brilliant 73 off 55 balls, with eight fours and a six.
Cobras captain Alan Dawson caught-and-bowled the dangerous Alviro Petersen for two to strike an early blow for the visitors, before McKenzie and Blake Snijman took control with a stand of 79 off 63 balls.
With such a quick start and so many wickets in hand, victory was a formality thereafter for the Lions, even though Adam Bacher struck twice as he bowled Snijman for 23 and had Tyron Henderson caught in the deep for nine.
McKenzie raced along untroubled, however, showing all his experience and class, while Vaughn van Jaarsveld's successive sixes to end the 15th over served to break Bacher's shackles and the left-hander breezed to 28 not out off 14 balls.
Vernon Philander claimed McKenzie's wicket when just two runs were needed, Henry Davids gobbling a leading edge as the Lions captain tried a paddle to leg.
Most of the Cobras bowlers were taken for easy runs, apart from Charl Willoughby, who conceded just 19 runs in his four overs up front.
Earlier, a top-class bowling performance by the Highveld Lions limited the Cape Cobras to a meagre 147 for nine.
The Cobras lost wickets at regular intervals after being sent in to bat and their only partnership of note was the 40 runs off 34 balls quality hitters Philander and Rory Kleinveldt shared for the seventh wicket.
Philander went on to give the Cobras a total they could at least bowl at as he finished with a superb 56 not out, a free-scoring innings that came off 47 balls and included a four and three sixes.
Garnett Kruger set the tone for the innings with a wonderful first over of genuine pace that had Bacher scrambling for just a single off the last delivery. Kruger's new-ball partner, Friedel de Wet, then snapped up the wicket of the quick-scoring opener with the first ball of the next over, when McKenzie held a catch at first slip which rebounded off second slip Henderson.
JP Duminy struck a four before pulling Kruger to deep square-leg where Petersen plucked a magnificent catch, leaping as the ball sped over his head. Petersen wrote himself into the record books with three other catches in a top-class fielding display by the Lions.
Davids (21) launched a couple of sixes before Henderson made a blazing start to his spell by dismissing both Davids and Benji Hector (17) in the space of three balls.
The Cobras sunk further into the mire when Wesley Euley (7) and Warren Swan (6) were dismissed by De Wet and Eugene Moleon respectively, leaving the visitors struggling on 70 for six.
Philander and Kleinveldt were threatening to cut loose when Kruger returned and had Kleinveldt caught at long-on for 19 in the 17th over and he quickly added the wicket of Con de Lange for a duck in the same over, before Philander blazed 32 runs off the last three overs and returned to the dugout unbeaten with a face-saving innings for the Cobras.
Kruger stood out for the Lions with three for 32 in his four overs, once again showing that South Africa's fast bowling stocks are far from ill, while Henderson showed what a crafty campaigner he is with brilliant figures of two for 19 in his four overs.
Moleon can also be very content with his contribution, taking one for 14 in three tight overs.
Paceman De Wet took two for 36, while the Cobras scored quickly off star spinner Werner Coetsee in his last two overs, leaving the offie with one for 38.
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