(Cricinfo) Two heroes of the night turned villains then turned heroes again, but Lions’ Quinton de Kock made the last couple of mistakes to facilitate an incredible tie in the Super Over. James Neesham’s Otago emerged winners because they had one boundary more than the Lions did.
De Kock could easily have ended on the winning side. He turned a scratchy innings into a superlative hundred to take the stumbling Lions to 167, and then kept decently for the majority of the chase as Otago struggled. Neesham kept Otago in with big hitting towards the end, even against Sohail Tanvir’s wily bowling. After Neesham’s 25-ball 52, it came down to two required off the last ball. Tanvir beat the bat, but a fumble from de Kock allowed Otago the bye to push the game into the Super Over.
Tanvir responded superbly to the call of the hour, bowling accurate yorkers, but Brendon McCullum charged him to take a yorker on the full and send it over long-off for six to take Otago to a fighting 13. Neesham’s response with the ball wasn’t as good: he kept bowling wide-length balls, and conceded 10 to de Kock off the first two balls. Jean Symes, though, slogged with just three required off three, and holed out.
Now was de Kock’s turn to falter. He played a drive off the fifth ball hard to deep point, but didn’t run hard enough, and was in no position to capitalise on the fumble in the deep. A couple there would have all but sealed the result in Lions’ favour, but now they had a new batsman needing two to win off the last ball because a tie just wouldn’t do. Dwaine Pretorious hit a low full toss to deep midwicket, de Kock began to come back for the second, realised halfway that he wouldn’t be able to make it, and turned back. Brendon McCullum’s throw was accurate, and Pretorious was run out.
De Kock remained unbeaten on the night – in the main match and in the Super Over – but when Twenty20 got to its cruelest – number of boundaries splitting sides that finished even twice – he froze.
That the match even reached the Super Over was due in no small measure to Neesham. He helped Otago smash 64 off the last five off overs, starting with a six that was a cross between a ramp and a paddle off Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the bowler’s final over – the 17th of the match.
Neesham struck two more sixes through square-leg, both flicks, off Tanvir and Hardus Viljoen, and he slammed a straight six off Tanvir in the final over. But the Pakistan fast bowler kept Neil Wagner quiet off the last three balls. Tanvir gave away 10 runs in that over and the bye that de Kock missed off the last ball set up the Super Over.
De Kock was Lions’ hero when they batted, hitting his second T20 century as well as the second hundred of the tournament. De Kock’s hundred was also the sixth overall ton in the Champions League.
The opener batted with a sensibility that hardly comes about in Twenty20 matches. He added 44 for the first wicket with Rassie van der Dussen and another 29 in a second-wicket stand with Temba Bavuma. The Lions, however, floundered after that stand, losing two quick wickets, including that of Alviro Petersen, who was given leg-before off Nick Beard for a first-ball duck.
But the Lions recovered well in the next six overs. Jean Symes and de Kock added 76 runs in 6.1 overs, with de Kock completing his fifty in the 15th over. He had a reprieve in the same over, when Beard misjudged a catch at deep square leg off Nathan McCullum’s bowling and de Kock made that chance count. Between the 15th and 18th overs, the pair picked up 13, 21, 18 and 11, pushing the total past the 150-run mark. De Kock switched modes and took charge of the hitting, making sure none of the Otago bowlers had a hold on him. He helped Lions add 70 runs in the last five overs and completed a century, off just 60 balls, in the final over. His 109 off 63 balls included 10 fours and five sixes.
Otago’s chase of a competitive total was stunted by Tsotsobe, who bowled three excellent overs spread over the innings. His first three overs produced the crucial wickets of Brendon McCullum and Ryan ten Doeschate and he conceded only 12 runs. But he couldn’t finish the innings well; his reputation as a slog-over bowler took another hit after Neesham’s charge.
Otago never had a rhythm to their batting, losing wickets just when it looked like they had a settled partnership at the crease. Rutherford and de Boorder added 51 runs for the third wicket but lost their wickets to Imran Tahir holing out while attempting slogs, to leave the team needing 65 off their last five overs.