Rilee Rossouw played crucial roles with both bat and ball to help the Pretoria Capitals reach the Betway SA20 final on Wednesday night.
Rossouw scored 56 off 41 balls as the Capitals clawed their way to 153/8 and then had Eoin Morgan caught on the cover boundary with the Royals just keeping up with the required scoring rate.
This was a thrilling match played on a pitch that provided ample assistance to all bowlers throughout the evening.
On Wednesday, the batters had to work for their runs, unlike the free-scoring Wanderers of the 438 game or when AB de Villiers hit a century off 30 balls. Those who were not willing to participate did not contribute.
Rossouw was eager and capable of doing so for the Capitals, who had topped the tournament standings following the league phase.
Normally such a free scorer, the powerful left-hander had to show patience after belting the third ball he faced for six, playing an anchor role – or at least one in this format.
He still scored at a strike rate of 136.58, but most importantly, he shared an important 41-run sixth-wicket stand with Eathan Bosch that put the Capitals back on track after they’d been thrown off by the loss of their top order by the ninth over.
The Royals’ bowlers quickly realised that pace on the ball aided batters, and all of the seamers bowled cutters hard into the surface to suffocate the Capitals while also forcing them to create their own pace.
Andile Phehlukwayo was Paarl’s most successful bowler, taking 3/29, but the contributions of the spinners, Bjorn Fortuin (1/24) and Tabraiz Shamsi (2/19), were crucial.
It was a strategy the Capitals would use later when bowling.
Pretoria, too, made crucial early breakthroughs; Jason Roy’s dreadful tournament ended when he drove Bosch to Rossouw in the covers off the second ball of the innings, and then Jos Buttler, so crucial to the Royals’ fortunes, was bowled by a darting back and keeping low delivery.
While Paul Stirling engaged in a thrilling single over battle with Nortje and his high pace, carving a couple of fours and smashing a fantastic six over long on, the Royals were never able to sink their teeth into the chase properly.
Miller and Morgan, two experienced players, formed the pivotal partnership. That’s when Theunis de Bruyn, captaining the Capitals in the absence of Wayne Parnell, pulled out his trump card: Rossouw.
It was a wild over in which he dismissed Morgan, then had a lbw decision overturned, and then ripped an off-break across the right-handed Evan Jones as if he were Ravi Ashwin, which was called a wide.
Miller desperately tried to find a partner, but wickets fell at a regular rate, and by the time he was out in the final over, superbly caught at midwicket by Colin Ingram, the Royals’ chances had vanished.
The Capitals, who won by 29 runs, will play in the final at the Wanderers on Saturday. It will be against either the Joburg Super Kings or the Sunrisers Eastern Cape, who play on Thursday at SuperSport Park.