With the Western Province Cricket Association’s 2023/24 club cricket season postponed by a week due to the effects of previous heavy rains on field preparation, the opportunity presented itself for many clubs to arrange a final pre-season warm-up match instead. In Cape Town’s case that meant the chance to resurrect the proposed annual Wallace Wilson trophy friendly match against Western Province CC. This had first been played in November 2020, when COVID-19 lockdown protocols were just starting to be relaxed, but in a vacuum of the 2020/21 club cricket season having still been cancelled in its entirety.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first at the Wally Wilson Oval in Rondebosch, Cape Town promptly lost a wicket to the second legal delivery of the match – but nevertheless enjoyed a rapid start as Tristan Coetzee got into his work quickly. Largely due to his efforts, the visitors struck nine fours in the opening nine overs, sprinting to 67-1 in that time. Coetzee had able assistance at the other end from Christiaan Oberholzer though, whose deft nudges complimented Coetzee’s pulls and drives well. The net result was the pair posting a fifty partnership together at a-run-a-ball tempo, eventually going on to add 71 in 11½ overs.
The breakthrough eventually came via Coetzee’s ugly hoik at Gavin Kaplan’s medium-pacers, and with left-arm seamer Blake Beining exploiting the opportunity to nab another victim in the following over too, matters began to even out into a more protracted arm-wrestle thereafter. That became even more so when Oberholzer fell not long thereafter, and when Kaplan grabbed his second scalp immediately after that, fortunes were indeed evenly balanced at 113-5 after 20 overs.
It thereafter fell on the shoulders of Cape Town skipper Geoff Dods to steady the ship, first in company with a struggling Nathan Schultz – who survived three early lives to hang on for an hour in as scratchy an innings as he has ever played – and then with a far more flamboyant Michal Lord – who pulled danger man Justin Behrens’s leg-breaks for three sixes in the space of seven balls. The visitors thus entered the final ten-over Powerplay decently placed on 187-7, but when Dods and Lord fell in successive overs immediately thereafter, it was left to Nick Scott’s targeting of Beining’s seamers to get them beyond the 200-mark. However, opening bowler Luke Petersen returned to bowl a decent over at the death that snuffed out Scott’s innings, and Oxfordshire off-spinner Zach Lion-Cachet bowled with control from the other end to bowl Cape Town out with 3½ overs ultimately left unused.
Still, a total of 216 on a pitch offering iffish pace coupled with the ability to produce occasional surprising bounce still promised to be a challenging task for the home side – and so it proved. Dods put the new ball to highly effective use in a mesmerising spell, conceding just two singles glanced off the pad from his opening six overs – while bagging two important scalps in the process. With Scott also chipping in to castle Kaplan, the star of the previous 2020 game, the Western Province reply laboured it way to 36-3 from the opening ten-over Powerplay.
Unfortunately for the visitors though, their back-up bowling was unable to maintain the same degree of pressure, allowing Givon Christian and home team skipper Ridaa Isaacs to drag Western Province back into contention. Isaacs was happy to turn over the strike continually with 17 singles, while Christian first settled himself at the crease before going over to the attack with four fours and a six in the space of five overs. Their fifty-run stand followed from eleven overs of applied work, and Christian reached a 61-ball half-century with his seventh four in the over following that.
With the partnership having grown to 80, two well-set batters at the crease and 102 needed from the last 24 overs, the home side had fought their way into the driving seat. At that juncture, however, left-arm spinner Kyle Schreuder finally broke the stand – and followed it up immediately with a second wicket two balls later. It was exactly the lifeline that Cape Town needed, and when Christian also fell 20 minutes later for 64 from 95 balls, the home side seemed back in the pound seats with 80 still wanted from 17 overs with six wickets now down.
But any thoughts of victory were a little premature, as the home side weren’t done yet. Behrens now picked up where Christian had left off, and followed two early fours with three pulled sixes in charging into the 40s from just 33 balls faced. Suddenly only 40 were needed from the final ten overs, without further loss, and Western Province were once again favourites to take the win.
But the game’s fortunes were still not done fluctuating, and it was Oberholzer who then swung the pendulum back Cape Town’s way once more. Retained in the attack despite a long hop in his first over being deposited for six, his leg-breaks found their rhythm and bore rich fruit in his fourth over, when Oberholzer scurried back to the stumps to effect the crucial run out of Behrens (46 from 45 balls), following hesitation over a single that Behrens’s partner wanted much more than the striker himself. A shooter two balls later then pinned the new batter, and in his following over Oberholzer accounted for the other set batter to bring Western Province’s last-wicket pair together with 32 still wanted.
Even then though, it still wasn’t over, and when eleven runs came off the 46th over the equation was down to just 18 needed from four overs. A second successive one-wicket defeat at the Wally Wilson Oval thus seemed to be threatening Cape Town, but Scott then returned to rubbish that possibility by cleaning up the last wicket with his next delivery. It was finally over, and Cape Town had hung on to claim a 17-run win and take over possession of the Wallace Wilson trophy for at least the next year.