First X vs Robertson at Robertson, 2 Nov 2019

The final match of the day’s Community Cup play-offs for the right to represent the Cape Cobras franchise at the 2019/20 edition of this national club T20 competition, was fittingly an unofficial Final between Cape Town and their hosts Robertson CC at the Callie de Wet Sports Grounds in Robertson – with the winner qualifying to make the trip up-country.

With an over-used pitch making batting ever harder by giving the batsmen nothing to work with, evidenced in part by George CC earlier being bowled out for well short of triple figures in both their matches while batting second, having first use of the pitch remained a prime contributor to the game’s ultimate result.  Unfortunately for Cape Town, they called incorrectly at the toss, and were condemned to chasing a target on a low, slow pitch – against a home side backed to the hilt by a considerable number of singing, chanting supporters.

As had also happened in Cape Town’s first match that morning, a number of boundaries in the first three overs provided a deceiving initial impression of the batting side’s prospects.  As had also happened earlier, off-spinner Matthew Olsen quickly drew blood after opening the bowling by dismissing both openers, this time in consecutive overs.  Indeed, had Brendon Erasmus soon thereafter been held on the boundary when 8*, things might still have turned out differently.  However, the catch was spilled over the rope for six runs instead, and Erasmus continued on to add what was ultimately a match-winning stand of 58 in ten overs for the third wicket, putting the visitors’ backs firmly against the wall.

It eventually fell to Darren Rolfe to account for Erasmus, firing one passed his driving bat to castle the right-hander for 45 from 45 balls – the day’s highest individual score – and thereby capture his 300th career wicket for the Cape Town First XI.  This made Rolfe the first seamer in at least the last 23 seasons to reach the 300-wicket mark, and just the third First XI player overall (behind off-spinners Olsen and Donovan Holman).  He followed that up with a second scalp in his next over too as the Robertson innings faded in the closing overs, but they nevertheless managed to scramble 32 from the final five overs.

While a target of 116 might not sound especially threatening in normal circumstances, the conditions were already heavily loaded against a Cape Town side that was under no illusions about having their work cut out for them.  That was quickly confirmed when opening bowler Warwick Abrahim induced the first false stroke with just his third delivery, and it was only a succession of wides sent down in the third over that pushed the visitors’ score to an on-target 17 by the time it finally ended.  However, a second strike by Abrahim, followed by Erasmus getting in on the act with the ball as well, saw Cape Town slip to 34-3 by the end of eight overs and concede the initiative.

Thereafter the home team bowlers squeezed a vice-like grip ever tighter on batsmen struggling to work the ball away off the grudging surface, and the pressure built steadily and inexorably.  A lofted off-drive from Tristan Coetzee (immediately before getting out) in the tenth over was consequently Cape Town’s only boundary during the next six overs, by which time leg-spinner Amre Konstabel had joined the attack to bag a further scalp in each of his opening two overs.

The net result was that the visitors were left needing a daunting 50 from the final five overs, with seven wickets already down.  It never looked likely, and when Robertson’s franchise-level seamer Ferisco Adams returned to the attack to instead blast out two further batsmen in six deliveries, Cape Town succumbed to the comfortable defeat that had already looked likely for a while.  For Robertson, though, there were joyous celebrations, as effective use of home-ground advantage had earned them their first trip to the national T20 Community Cup tournament.


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