First XI vs Brackenfell at Brackenfell, 21 Jan 2023

Having last tasted on-field success in early December, the Cape Town First XI was overdue for another win.  This they duly achieved in a hard-fought yet ultimately reasonably comfortable defeat of the home team at the Brackenfell Sports Complex, allowing them to sneak back into the top half of the Premier League points table once again.

Cape Town’s skipper Geoff Dods extended his recent successful run in the coin toss to six successive wins, allowing him the opportunity of asking his hosts to bat first.  Opening bowler Brendan Young, playing in his 100th match for Cape Town in the limited overs format, promptly put down a return catch from the first delivery of the game, but wasted no time redeeming himself by pinning his man lbw offering no shot to the very next ball.  He would also knock over the other opening bat shortly thereafter, and with his new-ball partner Darren Rolfe also inducing two inside edges onto the stumps in immediate response from the other end, Brackenfell dramatically collapsed to 17-4 within the first half-hour’s play.

It might have been even worse had the visitors’ catching been up to scratch, but three hard cross-bat slashes to the slips were missed, including two off successive balls faced by new man Leon van Vuuren when 0* and 1*.  The consequence was that Cape Town would have to wait another 1½ hours for their next wicket, as he and home team skipper Lee-Roy Walters began the massive repair job required.  Van Vuuren used his good fortune brightly enough, with two straight-driven fours early on, but as the back-up seamers found their rhythm, the scoring rate gradually declined as the dot balls stacked up.  The pair nevertheless ground their way forwards, Walters the more patient of the two but still enjoying his own share of luck when his lofted drive caught a misjudging fielder at mid on out of position, the subsequent boundary raising the fifty partnership in 16½ overs.  Walters was misstumped as well not long thereafter, but by then he was already struggling with a torn hamstring that helped ensure that no twos were run throughout the last 17 overs of their stand.  Nevertheless, that partnership eventually climbed to 79 in 26 overs, before off-spinner Matthew Olsen finally induced van Vuuren to lose patience on the cusp of the second drinks break, holing out on the long on boundary for 38 from 67 balls.

It was the turning point of the innings.  Olsen promptly bagged Walters as well two overs later, when his reduced foot movement finally undid him just shy of a beckoning hard-fought fifty, his 48 having included just three fours – and then finished with one more victim in his penultimate over for good measure.  It was a controlled spell from Olsen, whose last six overs brought him three wickets at the cost of just four singles and a two.  It also exposed the tail to Young as he returned for his second spell, and within the space of eight deliveries Brackenfell had lost their last three wickets to be bundled out for 136.  For the paceman, it represented his second four-for in two matches against Brackenfell.

The visitors would’ve begun their run chase fully confident of chasing down that target with time to spare, particularly once 17 had come from the opening three overs and their premier batter William Hantam had also survived a big mid-pitch mix-up that could’ve seen either opening bat run out with ease.  However, the bowler in operation, Phillip Kleynhans, still struck with the last ball of that over, and fired one through Hantam too not long thereafter.  With medium-pacer Etienne Jewell then also joining the attack to promptly take out the remainder of the top order with his first eight deliveries, Cape Town quickly imploded to 40-4, putting the home side firmly back in the picture to snatch an against-the-odds win after all.

Fortunately for the visitors, they had in Nathan Schultz someone with both the ability to wrestle back control and in the current form to do so.  Fresh off a fluent career-best 64 in the preceding match, he benefited from Kleynhans having reached the end of a long spell to pounce on some overpitched leg-spin from van Vuuren, cracking two consecutive fours to signal that the counter-attack had begun.  While Craig Jeffery locked down the other end and dutifully fed him the strike with 15 singles in 16 scoring strokes, Schultz drove and pulled five boundaries to raise their fifty partnership by just after the innings halfway mark.  Ultimately Jeffery sacrificed his own wicket to protect Schultz after confusion over a second run, but there was never any doubt that it was the right call – particularly as Schultz then signed off that over with two more boundaries from the last three balls thereof.

Dropped off Jewell’s bowling in the next over bowled from that end, Schultz took advantage to reach a 58-ball fifty in the same over – only to fall to Jewell anyway in the latter’s next over.  By then though, his forceful innings had made absolutely sure of the result – just twelve were still wanted from the last 17 overs.  These were duly knocked off without any undue drama, and Cape Town secured their fourth bonus-point win of the season with plenty to spare – and their fifth win in six matches over Brackenfell in the format.

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