First XI vs George at Robertson, 2 Nov 2019

The occasion of the Cape Town Cricket Club First XI’s 400th competitive match since the start of the 1997/98 season was a landmark not only for reaching that particular milestone, but also because the game represented the club’s first-ever participation in the national Multiply T20 Community Cup Championship (now in its fourth edition) – albeit only at the initial play-off stage.  It was also the team’s first visit to Robertson, as far as can be ascertained, since playing a friendly there in December 1949.  With Cape Town having qualified the preceding weekend as the 2019/20 Western Province club T20 representatives after their semi-final triumph over Durbanville, this was the first match of a three-way play-off against their fellow club T20 champions of the other Cape Cobras franchise provinces – George CC from South-Western Districts and the home side Robertson CC, representing Boland.

With all three matches being played back-to-back on the same pitch in typically hot Robertson weather, conditions grew progressively worse for batting as the sun gradually baked all the life out of a pitch that consequently grew increasingly slower and lower as the day progressed.  Winning the toss and batting first thus became disproportionately important, and fortunately for Cape Town they achieved that goal first-up to enjoy probably the best of the batting conditions on offer.  Opening bat William Hantam struck an early six and two fours to guide his side to 20-0 after the first three overs, but Cape Town nevertheless found themselves two down before the end of the initial six-over PowerPlay.

It might have been worse still, had Tristan Coetzee been held on the boundary before he had scored, but he survived to keep the side moving forward during the middle overs, despite the loss of two further wickets – including Hantam (for 31 from 34 balls).  However, the introduction of off-spinner Ayabonga Anthony in the 16th over accounted for Coetzee as the first of three wickets in the spinner’s first ten deliveries.  Thus, when fellow offie Neil Hornbuckle chipped in with his second scalp immediately thereafter as well, Cape Town were reduced to looking like defending a very average total – going into the final over on just 116-8.  However, new bat Matthew Olsen had other ideas, and interspersing a perfectly-executed array of orthodox and reverse sweeps and pulls, he took a terrible revenge on Anthony, striking three sixes and two fours to transform Cape Town’s final total into a suddenly rather challenging 143 to win.

With conditions already looking problematic for sustained strokeplay, George thus elected to attack from the outset.  However, that merely allowed Olsen to extend his influence on proceedings yet further, as opening the bowling with his off-breaks, he then had both opening batsmen caught on the boundary in his first over.  As a result, when Darren Rolfe then joined the attack soon afterwards and himself struck twice in his opening over, the entire George top order had been swept away inside the first five overs to largely end the match as a contest.

Not that they didn’t still try.  Jaco Fourie stuck around until the end, adding 47 for the next two wickets to keep the contest nominally alive, but with left-arm spinner Bradley Petersen chipping away to claim two more victims in his four-over spell, George found themselves seven down and only halfway to their target with just five overs remaining.  Another double-strike by Rolfe in the first over of his second spell made that irrelevant, by ensuring that George would not see out those five overs anyway.  In the process, Rolfe completed a T20 career-best return of 4-6 for himself, taking his Cape Town First XI wicket tally to 299 scalps.  The end followed quickly as George were bowled out with 13 deliveries left unused, with Cape Town thereby completing half their task of qualifying for the Community Cup tournament in Pretoria with ease.

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