Nelson Mandela Bay Giants 168 for 9 (Kuhn 54, Paterson 2-26) beat Paarl Rocks 120 (Markram 50, Smuts 3-17, Magala 3-17) by 48 runs
Heino Kuhn's second fifty of the competition and cheap wickets for JT Smuts and Sisanda Magala set up a 48-run victory for Nelson Mandela Bay Giants over Paarl Rocks at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth. Kuhn was the fulcrum around which Giants' innings turned, with three of the top five also making 20s, and all of the top order keeping their strike rate at a run-a-ball or better before a mini-collapse kept them to 168 for 9.
Despite Aiden Markram's fifty, that proved to be plenty with Smuts leading an excellent performance from Giants' spinners with 3 for 17. Magala also chipped in with 3 for 17 to clean up the tail as Rocks were bowled out for 120.
Rocks burst out of the blocks in their chase, but after Junior Dala rattled Henry Davids' stumps via the inside edge and Chris Morris deceived Faf du Plessis with a canny slower ball in the Powerplay, the spinners squeezed the middle overs, drying up the boundaries. Markram, who had launched the innings with three quick boundaries off the seamers, should have been stumped off Aaron Phangiso in the seventh over, but wicketkeeper Rudi Second couldn't collect cleanly when the batsman was out of his ground.
While Markram motored on towards his fifty, Giants chipped away at the other end. Smuts brought himself on in the ninth over and struck with his second delivery to remove Vaughn van Jaarsveld, nipping a 23-run stand in the bud. Smuts conceded just four runs in that first over, but he was even more incisive in his second.
Smuts tumbled to his left to hold a catch off his own bowling to get rid of Patrick Kruger, and then struck the decisive blow when Markram holed out to deep midwicket immediately after bringing up a 38-ball fifty. Smuts had 3 for 7, Rocks were rudderless at 79 for 5, and the required rate was over 11.
With the required rate continuing to balloon with every dot, the Giants seamers returned to close the chase down at the death. Magala rushed David Wiese to have him caught behind off the glove, and then had Mangaliso Mosehle chipping to mid-off. With Fortuin skying Morris to long-on, Rocks were 115 for 8 and Giants were in sight of a bonus point.
For that, they had to keep Rocks to 134 or less, and Tahir made the job a little easier when Dane Paterson top-edged a sweep in the 19th over. With the St George's Park brass band in full flow, and cheered on by loyal spectators, Magala wrapped up the win with his third wicket, bowling Tshepo Moreki around his legs with a slower ball. The victory solidified Giants' position on the points table, putting them just a point behind leaders Cape Town Blitz.
Rocks were limp with the bat in conditions that the home side, lead by the experienced Smuts, read perfectly. They weren't at their best in the field either, spilling three chances. Kuhn and Christiaan Jonker were both dropped in the course of their 70-run fourth wicket stand, as was Ben Duckett early on.
Giants stormed through the Powerplay at nine an over, despite the loss of Marco Marais and Duckett, but it wasn't until Kuhn and Jonker came together in the eighth over that they were able to build a partnership of any significant substance.
Aided by the lapses in the field, they collected regular boundaries, with Kuhn playing the sweep to particularly good effect against both spin and seam. Both also hit sixes out of the ground, and the fourth umpire had to run out twice with replacement balls. Kuhn brought up the fifty stand in the 14th over by hitting Dane Paterson over the roof of the stands beyond square leg, and Giants had a perfect platform when they reached 140 for 3 in the 15th over with both batsmen well set.
The Rocks seamers struck back to seize the initiative, with Wiese and Paterson executing their yorkers to perfection. The last five overs brought six wickets and just 28 runs, and Giants stumbled a little in reaching what seemed a gettable total. But the home bowling attack never let the match out of their grasp, and Giants' fourth win of the league was their biggest so far, and came with a bonus point.