First XI vs Ottoman at Surrey Estate, 3 Dec 2022

In a season where much to date has not gone according to plan, Cape Town put it all together nicely at the Hassan Howa Pavilion in Surrey Estate to record a fine bonus-point victory over hosts Ottoman, and finally get an away-from-home win under their belts in the 50-over competition this season.  It was a win that they would’ve been counting on too, with Ottoman marooned at the foot of the Premier League points table in addition to having lost to Cape Town in every one of the nine previous times across all three formats in which these two teams have met over their playing history.

Winning the toss for the third successive match, the visitors took first use of a decent enough pitch, and quickly moved to 23 from the first four overs.  By then, however, left-arm seamer Aqeel Abbas had already snagged one wicket through a mishit to point, and two overs later again combined with the same fielder to repeat the outcome – this one via a spectacular one-handed diving effort.  When his new-ball opening partner then found an edge off the very next delivery as well, Cape Town had suddenly lost their whole top three in the space of less than three overs, and the pressure had been reversed.  It might have been even worse, as Craig Jeffery should’ve been run out without scoring in the same over, but somehow he survived the mix-up and the recovery could begin.

In the end that recovery was very comfortably orchestrated by Jeffery and Cape Town’s Hampshire import Fletcha Middleton, who together found the boundary regularly and shared the runs in largely even fashion between them.  Their fifty partnership was duly raised in 13 overs together, with Jeffery sailing passed his previous highest score for the Cape Town First XI in the process of taking 14 runs personally off an over of leg-spin from Raees Salie.  That included striking his fifth four to take him to 49*, but with a maiden first team fifty beckoning, he then played across a straight ball to miss out narrowly and end a 91-run stand.  Middleton would make no such mistake though, and a cut backward of point took him to a 71-ball fifty that included a six and six fours.

Thus it was that the visitors moved to within touching distance of the 150 with six wickets and 14 overs still in hand, and were consequently well set up for a big finishing effort.  However, the part-time off-spin of Taariq Behardien, who had had only one brief bowling spell in eight prior matches against Cape Town, then picked up two scalps in three overs to upset matters a bit.  However, Middleton remained, and now partnered with Nicholas Scott, the pair made quick work of undoing that damage.  Both hit a six and two fours as they charged to a fifty partnership in barely five overs together, ensuring that Cape Town would post a sizable total after all.

The interest then turned to whether or not Middleton would reach his hundred, but he pulled Behardien to deep mid wicket to fall for 87 from 113 balls, with two sixes and eight fours.  That effectively signalled the end of the visitors’ innings as well, as Juan James’s off-breaks – helped by a run out – then polished off the tail in short order, the last four wickets falling for 13 runs in barely 2½ overs.  Still, Cape Town had posted a daunting 230 to win, making them the favourites to take the match points going into the lunch break between innings.

The home side began their run chase in almost identically positive fashion, early boundaries propelling them to 23 without loss from the first four overs.  But then one shot too many gave opening bowler Darren Rolfe the breakthrough, which he quickly followed up with a second scalp in the same over.  That double-blow necessitated a few overs of rebuilding, but by the end of the first ten-over PowerPlay Ottoman was still largely on target, with 39 runs on the board and their SA Under-19 batter Meeka-eel Prince going well.

However, having missed out with the bat, the visitors’ own ex-SA Under-19 player Ethan Cunningham then snuffed out that growing partnership – before adding Prince’s scalp as well (for a fluent 38 from 42 balls, with five fours).  When veteran off-spinner Matthew Olsen thus also struck with just his second delivery not long after, the home side had regressed to 86-5 and Cape Town were firmly in charge of proceedings once more.

They had to wait a while to bring that control to full fruition though, as James held up progress with a stubborn innings that prevented any further loss until the 31st over.  By then the asking rate had systematically climbed to a-run-a-ball though, and something had to happen one way or the other.  It fell to left-arm spinner Michal Lord to break the deadlock, as he had James caught on the boundary on the cusp of the final drinks break.  That proved to be it as far as the Ottoman effort was concerned, as Lord and Olsen then combined to spin out the remaining batting in short order after the break – the last four wickets falling for as many runs in less than three overs.  It represented Lord’s first three-for for the Cape Town First XI as well, and hastened the visitors to a comprehensive 111-run victory that got Cape Town inching back up the points table once more.

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