As gsport reported on Wednesday, Boland beat KwaZulu-Natal in a close encounter in Chatsworth on Saturday ( Click here to download the scorecard 11.45 Kb) to remain eight points ahead of second-placed Northerns ( Click here to download the latest Super Sixes log 10.56 Kb).
The weekend’s two other matches included a first win for Northerns in their tie against Gauteng in Lenasia ( Click here to download the scorecard 11.40 Kb), after their surprise loss to Border at home the previous weekend followed an unfortunate first round no-result tie against KwaZulu-Natal, owing to inclement weather.
In Saturday’s match Northerns won the toss and invited Gauteng to bat, who depended on openers K Thomson (48 in 99 balls) and M Terblanche (23 in 43 balls) for a steady 42-run opening partnership, before key Northerns striker M Letsoalo struck with the no. 2’s wicket. The next noteworthy innings from N Landie (34 in 28) and T Thabethe (22 in 62) aiding a slightly under-boiled innings total of 181 for 9 after 50 overs.
Northerns came out with confidence, and after M van Niekerk (25 in 40 balls) and M de Preez (33 in 64) lost their wickets, opener J Knoetze (knocking up the day’s high-score of 72 in 156) played a comfortable win with no. 4 batswoman C van der Westhuizen (10 in 15 balls), securing their victory in the 46th over, to lift their team five log points ahead of third-placed KwaZulu-Natal.
Free State also secured their first victory of the tournament, against Border in East London ( Click here to download the scorecard 11.51 Kb). Choosing to bat first, Free State lost opener M Adams cheaply before no. 2 M Loftus (20 off 51 balls) and national captain Cri-Zelda Brits (64 in 90) struck a solid partnership.
When Loftus was caught behind off the bowling of M Kirchoff, Susan Benade (60 off 88 balls) added yet another dependable innings, their combined contributions making the most of Free State’s total of 205 for eight in 50 overs, with Border captain L Jordaan bowling best for three wickets in seven overs, for the price of 27 runs.
Their turn to bat, Border’s good fortune of the week before was betrayed by regular top-order collapses at the hands of Free State bowlers, who all shared in the home team’s misery, the top six wickets falling for a total of 71 runs, and the lower half gamely adding 89 runs in a losing cause, holding out until the visitors enforced the end of play when Border was bowled out for 180 in the 47th over.
Cricket enthusiast Michelle Haylett brought a few of the game’s remarkable statistics to gsport’s attention this week ( Click here to download leading player averages 14.99 Kb), including that national player Sunette Loubser is fast-approaching 100 first-class wickets. Currently on 93, Loubser would be the first South African woman to achieve this remarkable milestone, and she turns out for Boland next in their encounter against Gauteng in Paarl on 1 March.
Further applause is in order for Free State’s Susan Benade, who has just passed 2000 runs, becoming the first provincial woman cricket to achieve the landmark record. Benade’s team-mate Annelie Minny clobbered the highest individual innings against Griqualand West in November last year, when her 186 not-out (reached off an impressive 145 balls) was reached in the same innings that Benade struck 127 runs in 88 balls.
Meanwhile, in their Super Sixes championship quest, Boland now enjoy the comforting knowledge that Northerns, their only remaining rivals for the inaugural Super Sixes trophy, will need Boland to lose to Gauteng, while Northerns will also be required to win both their remaining games, against Free State in Pretoria on 2 March, and against log leaders Boland in their final match on 8 March, to record a remarkable come-from-behind series win.
Few would bet against the unbeaten Boland losing twice on home soil, but Northerns will be hoping that the glut of ICC World Cup Qualifiers international cricket in Stellenbosch will draw the champs-in-waiting into a lull, and will be going-all out to secure an unlikely victory.
KwaZulu-Natal is currently in third position without a chance at the title remaining, two points above Free State, and though unlikely, neither are completely assured of being out of danger of the season-ending relegation to the Shield competition.
Gauteng meanwhile languishes at the bottom of the log, one point below Border, and while the team might entertain prospects of a final-round win against Border in East London to avoid relegation, they will be hard-pressed to achieve victory against Boland at home in their penultimate round.
Border will be more positive about their chances in Durban against KwaZulu-Natal in their second-last match, added to their home-ground advantage relegation battle against Gauteng at the final match.