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Titans squeak home

Lower-order batsmen Pierre de Bruyn and Kruger van Wyk squeaked the Nashua Titans into the final against the Highveld Lions in their Standard Bank Pro20 semi-final.

Lower-order batsmen Pierre de Bruyn and Kruger van Wyk squeaked the Nashua Titans into the final against the Highveld Lions in their Standard Bank Pro20 semi-final on their home turf at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

Chasing 151, the pair rescued their side from a parlous 103 for six in the 16th over and scampered through for the winning single with a ball remaining as the ball sped across the green grass to mid-off.

Zander de Bruyn (16), Daryll Cullinan (first ball) and Gerald Dros (8) were all run out as the Titans once again looked to have passed up on the opportunity of a trophy in the farewell season of skipper Cullinan and coach Dave Nosworthy.

But Pierre de Bruyn and Van Wyk showed more composure than their more illustrious colleagues up the order and passed the stern examination of needing 48 runs off just 29 balls.

The Gautengers, going into the semi-final against the log-leaders as clear underdogs, stuck to their task well with the ball, but even they must have been amazed at the number of Titans batsmen who self-destructed.

Former Natalian Gulam Bodi struck two early fours in a run-a-ball 13 before his attempted straight drive off Friedel de Wet landed only as far as deep mid-off. Alviro Petersen scored 24 off 22 balls before he chopped Gerhard de Bruin on to his stumps, but Justin Kemp then came in and was on the charge immediately.

He hit three high and handsome, sweetly-struck sixes and also clubbed a four, before he attempted to turn a delivery to leg from De Wet, who he had been punishing, but could only loop a return catch.

Captain Cullinan began the run out rot when he attempted a quick single to his counterpart, Neil McKenzie, was sent back and was caught well out of his crease. His partner, Zander de Bruyn, who could never really get going, was then also run out as Dros sent him back but he just kept on motoring down the pitch. Marthinus Otto was able to cruise along to the bowlerís end to complete the run out.

Dros was the third run out victim when he naively took on Justin Ontong at long-off after a misfield, but a slick recovery and phenomenal throw on the turn to the wicketkeeper saw the former captain caught in no-manís land at the Hennops River End.

But Pierre de Bruyn and Van Wyk showed the big match temperament to get the Titans home. De Bruyn heaved sixes in both the 19th and 20th overs and faced just 19 balls for his 27 not out. The 12 runs that came off De Bruinís final over meant there were just 10 needed for victory off the 20th.

The diminutive Van Wyk would not normally be considered a big hitter, but he was strong on the drive, hitting four fours off 13 balls in his 21 not out.

Earlier, the Highveld Lions struggled to 150 for seven after being sent in to bat by their northerly neighbours.

The low-scoring innings never really rose above seven runs to the over, despite a sweetly-struck 65 off 48 balls by opener Adam Bacher. The Titans bowled with impressive discipline and were athletic in the field.

Bacherís opening partner, Ashraf Mall, enjoyed a charmed life in scoring a run-a-ball 28. He could have been run out twice and Dros volleyed a catch on the backward point boundary for six off Kemp.

Dros got it right second time around when he caught a cramped pull off Pierre de Bruynís first delivery. Bacher and Mall had coaxed 64 runs off 57 balls in their opening partnership.

The Lions batsmen were unable to find a way of getting De Bruyn away, and he finished with two for 22, playing an invaluable role in an attack in which Dale Steyn, whose opening four-over burst cost 23 runs, and Ethy Mbhalati (three for 22) impressed at opposite ends of the innings.

After De Bruynís slow medium-pacers had also burgled the wicket of Bacher, caught at cow corner, Mbhalati nipped in with his three wickets at the death, while Lions captain McKenzie (24 off 17) ran himself out in a vain attempt to run a bye after a bouncer.

The 11 300 spectators at SuperSport Park on Wednesday certainly got value for their rand, enjoying a thrilling conclusion as Pierre de Bruyn and Van Wyk scaled their formidable mountain.

The Titans will host the final next Wednesday, with their adversaries to be decided in Fridayís semi-final between the Warriors and the Eagles. At least the Titans have temporarily discarded the chokersí ID tag that has been around their necks, although the team that finished fourth on the log pushed them all the way.

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