Ackerman leads the way for the Dolphins
HD Ackerman and Grant Rowley destroyed the Gestetner Diamond Eagles with an opening stand of 142 as the Nashua Dolphins won their Standard Bank Pro20 match by 68 runs in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Thanks to Ackerman and Rowley, the Dolphins scored 184 for two and the Eagles could manage no more than 116 for nine in reply.
After Johann Louw and a fast Quinton Friend claimed early wickets, the Eagles could never score quickly enough to challenge the Dolphins' total and would ultimately be undone by a three-wicket burst by wicketkeeper-turned-leg-spinner Daryn Smit.
The fact that Loots Bosman, the most prolific batsman in Pro20 history, could not bat after suffering a serious knee injury in the field was an added perk for the Dolphins.
Ackerman showed how valuable experience is in Standard Bank Pro20 cricket as he led the Dolphins to their challenging total after choosing to bat first.
Ackerman panned the Eagles bowlers to both sides of the wicket in his fiery 82 off just 51 balls, showing that the glare of Pro20 cricket is no worry for him after playing 43 matches for the Dolphins, Warriors, Cobras, Lions and Leicestershire.
Grant Rowley, who was strangely subdued in the opening stages of his innings, finished strongly to score 88 not out off 65 balls.
But it was Ackerman who did the real damage, batting with clinical, mind-numbing ruthlessness, his ten fours and two sixes, several of them through classical cricket strokes, leaving the Eagles unsure of where to bowl.
Ryan McLaren was the only one to bowl well, taking one for 29 in his four overs, with the other pacemen bowling surprisingly short.
It was a shock when Ackerman eventually fell, at the end of the 17th over, mistiming a drive off McLaren to long-off.
Louw, promoted up the order, came and went first ball, but Rowley then began to play some shots in anger. After getting to his half-century at a run-a-ball, he really had some fun in the closing stages, adding another 38 runs off 14 balls, finishing with eight fours and three sixes.
The Eagles' run-chase was badly disabled by the serious knee injury suffered by Bosman in the outfield in the penultimate over.
Bosman's foot got stuck in the turf after a failed attempt at a sliding stop and he went over on his knee, letting out yells of pain as he lay where he tumbled to a halt. An ambulance came on to the field to take him to hospital.
The Eagles were in a sticky situation as they went in search of 9.25 runs-per-over without their star batsman and their confidence was further dented when young star Rilee Rossouw (two) and key batsman Morne van Wyk (seven) fell in successive overs.
Van Wyk was bowled as he was totally beaten for pace by a cracking Friend delivery that cannoned into off stump.
Boeta Dippenaar (24) and Ryan Bailey (31) then added 52 in 6.2 overs, but the Eagles always needed something exceptional.
Dolphins captain Ahmed Amla called Smit from behind the stumps to bowl the tenth over and he immediately proved far too canny for the Eagles.
A sweeping Dippenaar was bowled as the ball turned sharply and McLaren was plumb lbw to the next ball. Bailey then fell in the next over as he missed an unwise swipe at another big-turning delivery.
It was the key passage of play in the Eagles innings and there was no ways they were going to come back from 78 for five after 12 overs, especially with Bosman in hospital with torn knee ligaments.
Smit netted three for 24 in his four overs, while Friend took one for 18 and had the fur flying at the start of the innings. Louw, Alfonso Thomas and Jon Kent were also among the wickets and restricted the Eagles batsmen.
By winning by more than 20% of their total, the Dolphins earned a valuable bonus point.