Paarl Boys High stormed into the finals of the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Schools Twenty20 (T20) Challenge with two emphatic victories on Saturday.
They will meet pre-tournament favourites, Northern Cape High, in the televised final on Sunday.
Paarl, who represent the defending senior T20 champions, the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras, were unbeaten at the end of the league section of the competition. On Saturday morning, they cruised to a comfortable 24-run victory over hosts, Potchefstroom Gimnasium (Gimmies), representing the bizhub Highveld Lions, in a rain-disrupted match.
Gimmies won the toss and chose to field first. Although they achieved early success when David Stofberg was run out for three in the first over, Marcke Cilliers and Hanno Kotze put Paarl in a good position with a partnership of 85, which ended when Cilliers was caught by Rupert Viljoen off the bowling of Jurie Bezuidenhout for 30. Kotze continued to build a platform, smashing an amazing six sixes and two fours as he raced to 60 off 27 balls. None of the other Paarl batsmen were able to reach double figures, and Paarl ended their innings, which was reduced to 13 overs, with a total of 116 for seven.
Viljoen and Roy Harris got Gimmies off to a good start with an opening partnership of 50, but once Harris went for 18, there were no other partnerships of any value. Jean-Luc du Plessis, son of former Springbok Carel du Plessis, took three wickets for 19 runs, and Warren 3/17 as Gimmies were restricted to 92/9.
In the afternoon, Paarl outclassed the team from the Chevrolet Warriors, Grey High, thrashing them by nine wickets with 34 balls to spare.
Grey batted first and were bowled out for 88 in the 18th over. Stofberg made 42 and Andreas Nel 36 as Paarl barely raised a sweat in passing the target for the loss of the wicket of Werner van der Merwe for three.
The other finalists, Northern Cape, from the Chevrolet Knights franchise, had a much tougher route to their second consecutive final. They lost their opening match against Gimmies on Friday, and their Saturday morning match against Grey was abandoned without a ball being bowled because of a waterlogged pitch, with both teams claiming two points.
The afternoon match against the Nashua Titans representatives, Nelspruit High, was a must-win affair, and they also had to rely on Grey losing their second match to make sure of a place in the final.
Northern Cape chose to bat first, and set a competitive total of 178. Xander Pitchers scored 43 and Diego Rosier 62 off 46, including seven fours and two sixes, as Northern Cape finished their innings on 177/5.
Nelspruit fought valiantly, but a five wicket haul from GM Bruwer kept them in check and nobody was able to get past 20. Nelspruit were restricted to 127/9, giving Northern Cape victory by 50 runs and an all-important bonus point.
The morning match between Nelspruit and the Sunfoil Dolphins team, Westville Boys High, was reduced to seven overs a side. Brendon Hartslief hit two sixes and three fours on his way to 36 off 19 balls. Westville scored 71/3.
In reply, Blake Schroader made 30 off 13 balls as Nelspruit reached the winning total of 72/4 with three balls in hand.
In their afternoon match against Gimmies, Hartslief was once again the star performer for Westville, scoring 50 off 39. Driaan Weyers took four wickets for 23 runs as Westville were bowled out for 117, with two balls remaining. Although Gimmies lost wickets at regular intervals, they reached the winning total for the loss of seven wickets with five balls to spare. Stean Naude made 35 at a run a ball, and Kerneels Swart 33, also at a run a ball, while Kyle Simmonds was the pick of the Westville bowlers, taking three for 19.
CSA Youth Manager Niels Momberg said he was very happy with the tournament so far.
“It was a pity that one match was washed out, but that’s cricket,” he said. “What’s important is that the two best teams are in the final. It should be a very good match.”