Temba Bavuma played a masterful innings to help guide the Imperial Lions into the final of the Betway T20 Challenge with a seven-wicket victory over the Dafabet Warriors in the play-off match at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead in Durban on Saturday.
Bavuma was busy around the crease, turning singles into twos while piercing the field when needed to end unbeaten on 48 from 37 deliveries, an innings that included one four and two sixes as the Lions ended on 142 for three in response to the Warriors’ 141 for six.
It was the key third-wicket partnership of 61 from 51 balls between Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen (17) that got the Lions close before a rash shot from Van der Dussen, caught at mid-off by Anrich Nortje off Mthiwekhaya Nabe (3.1-0-25-2), brought an end to the stand.
The pair had worked hard after a double-strike had reduced the Lions to 61 for two. Reeza Hendricks (32) and Ryan Rickelton (23) had given the defending champions a good start with an opening stand of 59 off 47 balls before Jon-Jon Smuts (4-0-18-1) flattened Hendricks’ middle stump.
Nabe then rattled Rickelton’s off-stump to bring the Proteas pair together. Once Van der Dussen departed, the Lions required just 19 from 20 balls and Bavuma and Wihan Mulder (15 not out) paced themselves to the end and into the final, with Mulder smashing the first ball of the final over from Nabe for six, to hand victory to the Lions with five balls to spare.
Earlier, Sinethemba Qeshile had won the toss and elected to bat first with Smuts (23) and Wihan Lubbe (52) giving their side an electric start with an opening stand of 71 from 53 balls. Smuts had struggled to get the ball off the square but just as the former captain found his rhythm with three fours and a six, Aaron Phangiso (4-0-20-1) struck, trapping the right-handed opener in front with a ball that kept low.
Qeshile lasted just four balls before also being trapped in front by Mulder (3-0-11-1) for a single. Lubbe and Lesiba Ngoepe (14) then struggled to move the ball about as the wicket turned sticky and low. Lubbe fell for his best T20 score, launching Sisanda Magala (3-0-27-1) down the ground but straight into the hands of Bavuma at long-on.
Ngoepe was then caught by Phangiso at long-off from the bowling of Beuran Hendricks (4-0-26-1) to leave the Warriors in a spot of bother at 95 for four in the 16th over. But a late flurry from the young Tristan Stubbs (37) propelled the Warriors to a defendable total on a track that was not playing true.
The Lions will now take on the Hollywoodbets Dolphins in the Betway T20 Challenge final here in Durban on Sunday.
**As published on Supersport.com