Quick-fire half-centuries from Jason Smith and Pieter Malan helped Western Province reignite their Africa T20 Cup campaign by annihilating KwaZulu-Natal Inland with a nine-wicket win at the City Oval in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.
All-rounder Smith was especially brutal, plundering six sixes and five fours in his 43-ball 79, while Malan made 72 (48 balls, 2 sixes, 8 fours) as the Cape side completed a fine chase of 165 with 21 balls to spare.
Their partnership, a competition record, ended unbroken on 154 off 85 balls and was the second highest for the second wicket in T20s on South African soil. The best was 171 unbroken between Adrian McLaren and Aubrey Swanepoel for Griqualand West (now Northern Cape) against Free State in a Provincial T20 game back in 2011.
More importantly, the result meant that WP bounced back from Friday’s upset loss to Namibia and moved back into play-off contention. They are now level on four points with the African nation ahead of their final meeting with Pool A leaders North West Seeff Dragons (8 points) on Sunday.
However, victory did not look as assured at the halfway stage of the game when the home side posted 164/5 after winning the toss and batting.
This was thanks to several solid contributions, which was highlighted by top scorer Vaughn van Jaarsveld’s 45 (39 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes).
The opener put on 53 for the first wicket with captain Sarel Erwee (25 off 18 balls, 5 fours), while Kyle Nipper struck 33 (18 balls, 5 fours) and Ruhan Pretorius 21 (16 balls, 2 fours, 1 six) also played their hand lower down.
That ensured the hosts posted the highest score of the competition to date.
Almost all the bowlers struggled, apart from Emmanuel Sebareme, who returned figures of 1/23 in fours overs.
But any chance of victory was crushed by Province pair Malan and Smith.
There was an early wicket in the form of Kyle Verreynne (5), run out by Nipper.
And that was as good as it got for KZNI as they slumped to a second successive loss.