Smuts, Nqweni, Magala starred as EP cruised to 2016 Africa T20 Cup title


Eastern Province impressed as they claimed the second title of the Africa T20 Cup, after beating Northern Cape by 31 runs in the final of the 2016 campaign at the Recreation Ground, Oudtshoorn, on Saturday.

After winning the toss and electing to bat first, EP set a competitive total of 165/6 in their 20 overs. EP’s bowling attack then managed to succumb to Northern Cape’s chasing efforts, as they forced them to a total of 134/9 in their 20 overs.

The title-claim was hard-earned and well-deserved, as EP won five out of the five matches they played in the 2016 Africa T20 campaign. The closest they came to defeat was in their very first game against Gauteng, which they won by a mere three runs. The Eastern Cape side then went on to beat Boland by six wickets; Cup holders- Kwazulu-Natal by 55 runs and then Zimbabwe by 76 runs before the final triumph against Northern Cape.

Eastern Province captain, JJ Smuts, lead from the front throughout the campaign, after scoring the most runs in his side and second-most in the tournament, and has lauded his team’s efforts for claiming the title this year.

“We had many match-winning performances throughout the team and played well as a team. We have had this ‘no fear’ campaign throughout the Africa T20 Cup and I’m glad we played that way right up to and including the final. It’s great to see it finished off that way as well,” Smuts told Cricket South Africa (CSA) officials.

Smuts also took his hat off to his side’s bowing attack in adapting to conditions, which had also paved the way for all five victories throughout the tournament.

“I think this wicket slowed down the longer the match went on, but our bowling has gone from strength to strength. The guys have really executed their plans perfectly. We really executed well, they have been unbelievable” Smuts said.

CSA Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, also took a moment to congratulate the EP side on their triumphant campaign in just the second annual Africa T20 tournament.

“It has been a rewarding time for Eastern Province Cricket recently with impressive gains both on and off the field. They have done the hard yards and sorted out most of their administrative and governance issues,” Lorgat said.

“All of us have been very encouraged by the way this event has grown in just two years and it is pleasing to see how well the tournament has been embraced by all participants,” he added.

Despite being only the second-highest run-scorer in the tournament, JJ Smuts was the only batsmen in the campaign to score a century after scoring 102 Not Out against Gauteng in his side’s first match. He showed the best batting average in the EP side of 49.00.

The other EP top-order batsmen also contributed sternly with the bat in Colin Ackermann (Average- 29.6, HS- 46); Edward Moore (Average- 27.6, HS- 56; Kelly Smuts (Average- 21.25, HS- 37) and Mathew Christensen (Average- 20.5, HS- 40).

After not playing in the first match against Gauteng, Solo Nqweni’s services were certainly missed as he went on to be the biggest bowling threat for EP in the remainder four games, scoring the best bowling average of an astounding 6.27 with the best economy rate (least expensive) of 5.11 in a total of 13.5 overs. His best bowling figures was 3/16 against Zimbabwe in the semi-final.

Sisanda Magala was also exceptional throughout the tournament with an overall average of 8.92; economy rate- 5.88 in 18.2 overs and best figures of 4/9 against Kwazulu-Natal.

Other featured bowlers for EP were: Brad Dolley (Average- 13.67, ER- 6.31, best figures- 2/10); JJ Smuts (Average- 27.00, ER- 6.75, best figures- 2/17); Tladi Bokako (Average- 28.00, ER- 6.22, best figures- 2/19) and Colin Ackermann (Average- 49.5, ER- 6.19, best figures- 1/24).

Image: Captain JJ Smuts celebrates for Eastern Province during the 2016 Africa T20 campaign.