Johannesburg – The Free State Knights’ bowlers did their best to undo the magnificent work Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien did with the bat, as they succumbed to pressure before eventually stumbling into the semifinal of the T20 Knock Out competition in Kimberley on Tuesday.
Rossouw’s 112 not out and Behardien’s 57 off 29 balls, had propelled the Knights to the third highest total of the tournament. Western Province were 105/ 5 in the 12th over of their run-chase following the dismissal of Jonathon Bird for 32, and the match looked over.
The Knights thought as much too, as they took their foot off the pedal, allowing WP captain Wayne Parnell to take control of proceedings. He launched a furious attack against some desperately poor bowling, dominating a 60-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Aviwe Mgijima that came off only 25 balls. Parnell struck three consecutive sixes off part-time spinner, Jacques Snyman’s bowling in the 14th over to change the tone of the innings.
The Knights panicked. Parnell kept swinging and despite Mgijima getting dismissed in the 16th over, the Knights could still not control the WP captain.
The Cape side needed 29 off the last over, which turned into a disaster for Migael Pretorius, who bowled three wides and then a no ball which Parnell smashed for six. Needing 13 off three balls, Parnell took a single, leaving Tshepo Moreki on strike for the last two balls, and finally easing the tension in the Free State ranks.
Parnell finished the match by hitting the last ball for six, ending on 80 not out, an innings that took just 29 balls, in which he struck six fours and six sixes.
Despite the tension at the end, Knights skipper Pite van Biljon said he still had confidence in Pretorius. “He’s been bowling well, even if was slightly off, we knew he had to execute two balls, and he did that.”
Rossouw’s innings was a stunning effort played in front of national selection convenor Victor Mpitsang.
It was a brutal, yet gloriously creative knock that featured pulls, drives, flicks, scoops and also very aggressive running between the wickets.
In one sequence he hit a hatrick of fours against left arm spinner, Kyle Simmonds, made up of a cut through point, a pull through midwicket and then a scoop of wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne. Later on, as he closed in on his century, he deflected a full delivery from Parnell off the edge of his bat over the keeper’s head, a shot that looked dangerous, but one over which Rossouw had complete control.
He finished his innings, having reached the third T20 century of his career – which has seen him play over 200 matches in the short format for various franchises around the world – by blasting two sixes, the first of which saw him stand with his backfoot behind the stumps. His innings lasted 55 balls, in which he smashed seven fours and eight sixes.
Asked about his approach, Rossouw said: “(It’s about) see ball, hit ball, don’t overcomplicate things.”
“When it comes to big games, big personalities must step up and I’m fortunate that it was me today, hopefully in the semis it will be someone else’s turn to step up and deliver us to the finals."
Rossouw had an excellent partner in the ageless Behardien, who scored 57 off 29 balls, hitting four fours and five sixes, in a partnership of 130, which came off 63 balls. “When two experienced guys come together and they’re hitting the ball so well, it is a force to be reckoned with. We put on a serious partnership which was game changing,” said Rossouw.
The Knights will face the winner of Wednesday afternoon’s match between the North West Dragons and the Boland Rocks.
In the first quarterfinal on Tuesday, the Northerns Titans earned a comfortable 54-run win against Division Two outfit, South Western Districts. The Titans were grateful for an aggressive 55 not out from Donavon Ferreira and then a dreadful batting collapse from SWD – which saw them lose all ten wickets for 56 runs in 52 balls – for helping them into the final four. They await the winner of Wednesday’s match between the Dolphins and Warriors to see who they will face in Thursday’s semifinal.
ITEC Knights 223/3 (Rilee Rossouw 112*, Farhaan Behardien 57, Aviwe Mgijima 1/20, Nandre Burger 1/36)
Six Gun Grill Western Province 219/7 (Wayne Parnell 80*, Jonathan Bird 32, Alfred Mothoa 2/35, Migael Pretorius 2/49)
Knights won by 4 runs