An undefeated 26-ball innings of 41 by Farhaan Behardien helped the Nashua Titans clinch a four-wicket victory over the Chevrolet Warriors with one ball to spare in their thrilling RAM SLAM T20 Challenge qualifier at Buffalo Park on Wednesday.
Earlier, figures of five for 24 by Alfonso Thomas had restricted the Chevrolet Warriors to a score of 127 for nine after being asked to bat first, with only Davy Jacobs (51 from 43 balls) offering significant resistance.
However, the Nashua Titans reply looked to be going awry on a sluggish pitch as they were reduced to 47 for three and 121 for six. But Behardien remained the picture of composure as wickets fell around him, and ultimately saw his team over the line with a fine hand.
Victory for the Nashua Titans sees them book a place in Sunday’s final against the table-topping bizhub Highveld Lions at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, along with securing their spot in the lucrative Champions League later this year.
The home side had earlier made the worst possible start as danger man Christiaan Jonker (1) edged behind off the bowling of Thomas in the second over with the score on eight.
However, Jacobs responded immediately as he carted Morne Morkel (4-0-32-3) for two sixes and a four in the third over. He took centre stage in partnerships with Colin Ingram (7) and then Samit Patel (19), but when the overseas professional was dismissed by Roelof van der Merwe (4-0-22-1) at the start of the tenth over, the hosts had been pegged back to 62 for three.
Nashua Titans skipper Henry Davids then mixed up his bowlers to good effect, and his side began to strangle the Chevrolet Warriors. A laboured partnership of 34 between Jacobs and Adrian McLaren (20) eventually came to an end as the latter miscued a Morkel delivery into the grateful hands of David Wiese at the beginning of the 17th over.
The Chevrolet Warriors captain then raised his seventh T20 half-century off the very next delivery as he guided the tall fast bowler for a well-taken two. However, when he perished two balls later, the Chevrolet Warriors were under the cosh at 98 for five.
Morkel struck again in the penultimate over as Wayne Parnell (8) became his third victim. But it was Thomas who then stole the show, proving his worth as a death bowler as he struck three times in the final over, and, despite a four and a six in the closing six deliveries, the Chevrolet Warriors were only able to set a meagre target of 128.
In reply, Davids (23) began positively as he took Parnell (4-0-30-1) for 14 runs in the third over. However, a double-strike from Lundi Mbane (2-0-9-2) in the fifth over accounted for Heino Kuhn (5) and Herschelle Gibbs (0), and Davids survived a close run-out shout at the end of the over to limit the damage to 22 for two at that stage.
But sustained pressure from the hosts saw the pressure build, and they eventually had their man as Davids played on to his stumps at the end of the 10th over, and he left the park with his team reduced to 47 for three.
New-man Behardien was then given a life as he was dropped by Jacobs at midwicket off the bowling of Simon Harmer (4-0-38-0) at the start of the 13th over. The skipper had his finger dislocated by the blow, and was forced to leave the field. But more significantly, the miss galvanised Behardien into action, as he struck a maximum off the following delivery.
Harmer again felt the wrath of the Proteas right-hander two overs later, as consecutive sixes wrestled control of the match from the home side.
A slightly sedate AB de Villiers needed 35 balls to reach 31 before flicking an Ayabulela Gqamane (2-0-9-1) delivery down the throat of deep midwicket an over later, and, at 94 for four, he departed with his side requiring 34 from 28 balls.
All-rounder Albie Morkel (9) was then clean bowled by Rusty Theron (3.5-0-17-1) with the score on 111 in the 17th over. But as the pressure began to mount with 11 needed off nine deliveries, the Chevrolet Warriors buckled as Jonker missed a regulation catch from the bat of Wiese (7) on the midwicket boundary.
Ironically, Jonker snared the right-hander off the very next delivery, but the ensuing four from the dropped catch had taken the game away from the home side, and Behardien sent the penultimate delivery to the cover boundary to seal the win for his team.