Despite having lost both of their previous two round robin matches, Cape Town’s mixed First / Second XI outfit nevertheless incredibly entered their final T20 pool match, against Claremont at the Stephan Oval in Green Point, with a mathematical chance of still making the friendly competition’s Final. Bellville’s defeat of Green Point just prior to the game had created the interesting scenario that, should Cape Town comprehensively defeat Claremont, they would force a three-way tie for second place on the points table, but then have the qualifying edge on run rate considerations. Ultimately it was not to be though, and in a bizarre COVID-restricted 2020/21 non-season that consisted only of such friendlies as were arranged between clubs themselves, the Plumstead-based outfit duly fulfilled their seemingly inescapable destiny – losing all six of the matches that they were able to contest along the way.
In his first appearance for the side since their opening match in late November 2020, Brendan Young was given the captaincy of the Cape Town side for the first time – and led faultlessly from the front in producing both his side’s best individual batting and bowling performances. He even won the toss, electing to take first use of a pitch that was now hosting the second of three matches to be played on it. From the outset his side was in trouble though – Claremont opened the bowling with Matthew Elsworth’s off-breaks, and the spinner struck in each of his opening two overs to dismiss Cape Town’s opening pair, such that they were perilously poised on 20-3 after five overs.
For a while Young and Tristan Coetzee then threatened to turn matters around for Cape Town, however, adding 45 together for the fourth wicket in eight overs. Young was the more fluent of the two, striking sixes in consecutive overs as 31 of those runs accrued from the tenth to the twelfth overs – doubling the total score in the process. It didn’t last nearly long enough though, and once Young holed out to mid on soon thereafter for 27 from 30 balls, Coetzee (20 from 31 balls) followed him back to the hut two balls later as Elsworth rejoined the attack to again strike immediately.
Thus, within minutes all of the good work had been undone by another mini-collapse, and Cape Town entered the final five overs of their innings once more in trouble at 71-6. Happily however, the tail wagged somewhat, as first Dyllan Matthews (21 off 17) got involved in taking 25 off the next two overs (until becoming a rather fortunate fourth victim for Elsworth), before Michal Lord (24 off 14) engineered a decent finish that brought a further 26 runs off the final two overs.
A final total of 130 thus offered some hope of a successful defence, even if probably not the crushing victory required – especially once Young struck in the opening over of Claremont’s reply to pave the way to a sluggish 14-2 start after the first five overs. However, Matthews de Villiers was content to weather the storm initially, accumulating just four singles and a two from his first 14 balls faced. His six in the seventh over, and one of two more struck in the tenth, signalled a change in fortune as Claremont began to assume control though, and by the end of the eleventh over things were looking much better for the Constantia-based outfit at 66-3.
Both sides subsequently traded blows with about equal success during the middle overs, and with six overs remaining Claremont still needed 43 with five wickets in hand. At that point it was still anyone’s game, but with de Villiers still there Claremont always had the edge over a relatively inexperienced bowling line-up. A six and a four off consecutive deliveries then took him to 49 from just 33 balls faced, and five wides gifted in the over after that brought the equation down to a manageable 24 needed from 24 balls.
The task fell to Cape Town’s most experienced pairing, Young and Darren Rolfe, to bowl those last four overs. A single in the first of those took de Villiers to a 41-ball fifty, and a second four off his bat (to go with four earlier sixes) in the second kept the asking rate at a-run-a-ball for the final two overs. Though Young did finally snare him in the penultimate over (for 57 from 45 balls), unfortunately for Cape Town Kai Greig crucially also twice found the boundary before the over’s end, levelling the scores such that Claremont was left the simple task of needing just a single from the final over to win. That was achieved without any fuss, putting Claremont into the Final against Bellville and ending a rather forgettable season for Cape Town in particular, with six defeats from six outings. One can only hope that normal service resumes with a proper cricket season in October.