In a fascinating contest fitting of a final showpiece, the Knights claimed the inaugural CSA Provincial T20 Knock Out Competition trophy with an exciting seven-run victory over the Dolphins at The Oval, Kimberley.
SCORECARD | CSA Provincial T20 final - Knights v Dolphins
The Knights put on a commanding total of 176/5 with Patrick Kruger's 61 off 53 and an electric knock from captain Pite van Biljon (42 off 25) setting up a record chase for the Dolphins who ultimately fell short of the target to give the Free State side their first white-ball title in 10 years.
Heading into the game, both sides were yet to taste defeat. The Dolphins had a perfect record with five wins out of five, while the Knights won three games and had two rained out, including the semi-final where they progressed through net run rate.
After losing the toss, the men from Bloemfontein were asked to bat first and suffered an early setback as Daryn Dupavillon (2/24) had Raynard van Tonder caught for a duck in the first over.
Opening batter, Kruger and the tournament’s leading run-scorer, Rilee Rossouw (28) put on 36 for the second wicket, with the Dolphins bowlers keeping it tight from both ends during the powerplay before Thando Ntini (2/46) removed the big scalp in the sixth over.
The run rate improved drastically when van Biljon arrived in the middle, with the skipper playing a pulsating innings to take the game to the Dolphins as he smashed three sixes and three fours to help his side advance to 123/3 with five overs to go.
Having stuck around for more than two-thirds of the allotted 20 overs, Kruger began playing with more freedom, dispatching four fours and two sixes to reach his eighth half-century and combined well with expert finisher Farhaan Behardien (29*) to put the Knights in the driving seat.
In reply, the Dolphins required 8.8 runs an over before facing a ball and their chase got off to a slow start with the Knights bowlers striking early to leave their opponents 15/2 after three overs.
The experienced pair of Sarel Erwee (27) and Khaya Zondo (43) then rebuilt the innings, adding 51 runs for the next wicket, with Zondo continuing his form from the semi-final before Alfred Mothoa (2/27) and Nealan van Heerden (1/24) pegged back the batters in quick succession.
With the scoreboard pressure mounting and runs hard to come by, Bryce Parsons (35) and Jason Smith (36*) fought hard to keep their side in the game with tireless running between the wickets, managing to notch up 52 runs together despite boundaries arriving few and far between to reach 144/4 after 18 overs.
Going into the final two overs with still 33 runs required for victory, Parsons and Smith attempted to tee off to rescue the contest but were stopped in their tracks as Migael Pretorius (3/30) started the 19th over with two wickets in two balls.
Despite two more boundaries off the unbeaten bat of Smith, Alfred Mothoa defended 21 runs in the final over to seal a memorable victory for the Knights, who are the first team to lift silverware under the new domestic structure.
Scorers in brief:
Knights 176/5 in 20 overs (Kruger 61, Von Biljon 42, Dupavillon 2/24)
Dolphins 169/6 in 20 overs (Zondo 43, Pretorius 3/30)
Result: Knights win by seven runs