Pinetown celebrate return to top flight after rollercoaster season

2014-03-13 00:00

CHAMPAGNE corks popped and beer flowed on Sunday as Pinetown Cricket Club achieved their goal for the season in being crowned Challenge League Stream One champions.

Having been relegated from the Premier League last season, it was paramount for the team to return to their place among KwaZulu-Natal’s cricket club elite and Sunday’s celebrations were a reflection on a mission accomplished and a long, tough season.

For most of the season, Pinetown had been playing catch-up to log leaders UKZN. Indeed, Pinetown’s only two losses this season were the home and away fixtures against the students and it seemed no matter what Pinetown achieved every weekend, UKZN were up to the task, always managing to keep their nose in front for league honours.

That was until last week, when Hillary Malvern pulled a rabbit out the hat and against all odds, beat UKZN comfortably. With a bonus point win on the same weekend, Pinetown finally took pole position on the log and a six-wicket win against Verulam on Sunday saw them claim the honours, a mere point ahead of UKZN.

Letting nothing slip, Pinetown started strongly against Verulam, having them seven wickets down before 50 runs were on the board. Opening bowler Kyle “Shutter Speed” Gilham wore his heart on his sleeve, bagging 6-18 from 9.4 overs in an impressive display.

Off-spinner Quinn Jones weighed in with 2-18 and 82 all out was never going to be enough for Pinetown batsmen to chase. However, both openers fell cheaply but 2013 SA Colts player Jason Oakes (29) erased any doubt, appropriately setting up captain Nick Tatham to hit the winning runs and take the league title as Pinetown reached 83-4.

Pinetown CC chairperson Marco Chixaro could not hide his delight. “We were bitterly disappointed to be relegated last season and knew we had to give everything to win the Challenge League and return to the higher echelon as soon as possible,” he said.

“It’s been a massive team effort and the players, coaches, sponsors, supporters and administrators can be proud of what has been achieved.”

Celebrating their 140th anniversary this year, the league title is the ideal birthday present for the club.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride this season, everything in the balance down to the final match,” said Tatham.

“When we lost to UKZN a second time, we thought it was game up, but we stuck to our guns, grabbing points from each game and letting matters, which were out our hands, run their course.”

Tatham added that while winning the league was special. the sweetest part of all was returning to the Premier League.

UKZN finished strongly with a 10-wicket win against Toti, but it was not enough to prevent Pinetown getting to the winning post by a nose.

Final log positions saw Pinetown on 74 points, UKZN 73, Simplex 54, Toti 53 and Railways 46, rounding off the top five. Dawnheights propped up the table with eight points.

As Pinetown’s celebrations died down, focus shifted to the Challenge League 20/20 competition, their first match this Saturday against Railways at Maidstone.

Then its East Coast CC in Phoenix on Sunday morning and the following Sunday (March 23), there’s a double header at Lahee Park as they host Umzinto and Umlazi.

Challenge League Stream 1 Results

Simplex RHCSC 101 (Naidoo 48*; Khan 5-21)

Umzinto 87 (Paul 4-22, Chetty 3-28)

Simplex RHCSC won by 14 runs

ACC 107 (Sunkari 3-12, Bissoon 4-24)

UKZN 108-0 (Richard Wissing 39*, Muthusamy 65*)

UKZN won by 10 wkts

Verulam 82 (Gilham 6-18)

Pinetown 83-4

Pinetown won by 6 wkts

Dawnheights 56 (Labushagne 6-16)

Quins 59-1 (Kettle 30*)

Quins won by 9 wkts

Hillary Malvern 57 (Naidoo 6-20)

Railways 58-3

Railways won by 7 wkts.

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