A scintillating century by Quinton de Kock and a whirlwind half-century from James Neesham resulted in the Highveld Lions and Otago Volts finishing neck-and-neck in a thrilling Champions League Twenty20 2013 match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. Otago prevailed, on the basis of fours hit (12 to 11) over the course of each team's 20-over innings, after the Super Overs also saw both teams finish with scores level. Each side had hit the same number of sixes (seven). That's how close it was. (Match highlights)
The Super Overs had tremendous drama, with Neesham and Brendon McCullum taking 13 off Sohail Tanvir, in what was a very good over under pressure. Neesham was handed the ball too, and de Kock seemed to settle the issue with a four and a six off the first two balls. However, Jean Symes was dismissed and with two needed off the final ball, Dwayne Pretorious was run out going for an impossible run. (Match in Pics)
The dramatic finish came about after de Kock's lone-hand 109 not out off 63 balls had propelled Lions to 167 for 4, and Neesham's 52 not out off 25 balls from No. 6 then ensured Otago finished on 167 for 7.
In the end, Otago found themselves on a very firm footing for a semifinal spot with a 15th win in 16 T20 matches. Mumbai Indians, the IPL champions, will find their task extremely hard, given Otago's far superior net run-rate (1.55 to 0.09).
The first half of the match was all about de Kock, who found form at the opportune moment, and the latter half of his innings was full of audacious pulls and straight hits down the ground that pinged sweetly off the bat. His innings was particularly crucial after a tight opening spell by the Otago seamers and a double-strike by Nick Beard, the left-arm spinner, that included Alviro Petersen as a first-ball victim. However, Beard's good work in getting Temba Bavuma and Petersen off successive deliveries in the 11th over was undone by the life he gave de Kock in the 15th over.
The Lions openers had put on 44 in 7.1 overs, when a struggling Rassie van der Dussen was trapped in front by James McMillan, the best Otago bowler on the day. Bavuma, returning for Neil McKenzie who was out with injury again, also struggled to get going and after Beard's double-strike, the Lions were in trouble at 73 for 3 in 12 overs.
De Kock had chugged along, but he found a new gear, hitherto unseen by spectators in India. In the 15th over, bowled by Nathan McCullum, he began with a cleanly hit six off the first ball, and then slog-swept the second towards deep square leg. The Otago fielders' joy quickly turned to horror when Beard ran in too far and failed to hold on with a desperate last-minute lunge. The drop sparked new life in de Kock, who smashed 67 off 27 in the final six overs as the Lions almost doubled their score. The first 14 overs had brought them 84 runs while the final six brought them 83.
Otago's batting depth allowed them to go hard in the chase from the start, despite the early loss of wickets. Neil Broom, the centurion against Perth Scorchers, fell early, as did Brendon McCullum, foxed into playing early by Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Hamish Rutherford and Derek de Boorder came together with Otago 27 for 2 in the fourth over, and kept the chase on track with a 51-run stand. Rutherford had looked good, but fell to Imran Tahir after hitting a four and a six in a 21-ball 32, leaving Otago 78 for 3 in the tenth over.
The Lions bowlers then exerted sustained pressure, as one wicket followed another and the chase floundered. Tsotsobe made his second important strike of the match, getting Ryan ten Doeschate in similar fashion to Brendon McCullum, while Tahir got the off-colour de Boorder, as Otago slid to 103 for 6, requiring 65 from 32 balls.
Tsostosbe, who had been very impressive, then conceded 18 runs in the 17th over, with Neesham taking a heavy toll. His belligerent hitting brought the equation down to 11 runs off the final over, and he almost settled the issue in one ball with a straight six off Sohail Tanvir taking him to a 23-ball fifty.
However, there were several twists left in the tale. It was Neesham's night, and he could do little wrong.