15 February 2019 – It's a three-peat! Saint Andrew's are the Free State T20 champions for a third year in succession.
Final vs Grey College
Saints lifted the Free State crown after defeating Grey College by three wickets, with just three balls to spare, in the final on Vossie's Field on Sunday.
The final was a tense affair, but the foundation of victory was laid right at the start of the game after Grey College won the toss and elected to bat. Saints' coach Gregg Hobson said he felt the slow wicket would favour the side batting first, but his team didn't let the loss of the toss get to them. In fact, they got stuck into Grey very early in the opposition's innings.
JD Bruwer sends down a delivery on the Saturday of the Coca-Cola Schools T20 Challenge Free State finals
With regular new ball bowler Henré Koekemoer unable to bowl due to an injury, the coach gave the new ball to off-spinner Pheko Moletsane and left-arm orthodox spinner Naleli Sekhibane. He felt they would match up well with the Grey top order and was proved right when they destroyed Grey's batting up front, reducing the opposition to 8 for 4 in the early going.
Pheko picked up three wickets for only seven runs in his four overs, while Leseli returned figures of 1 for 15 in four. Juan-Dee Olivier and Dean de Bruin worked hard to repair the damage, but, despite their good efforts, Grey failed to reach three figures.
They were restricted to 96 for 7 in their 20 overs, with Olivier making 35 from 38 balls, with two sixes, while De Bruin finished on 33 not out from 22 deliveries, with three fours and two maximums.
Ruan Cronjé also shone with the ball, picking up 2 for 15 in his four overs of leg-spin, while JD Bruwer claimed a wicket too.
The Saint Andrew's reply, although it didn't start as poorly as that of Grey, was, nonetheless, a stop-start affair and Saints looked in trouble at 67 for 6.
Reece van Staden and JD Bruwer then combined for a partnership of 20 runs before JD was run out with Saints closing in on the win. Reece stayed till the end, finishing unbeaten with the innings' top score of 19 from 24 balls, while Ruan Cronjé added 16 and Corné Viljoen 12.
The difference in the game was, however, the bowling and fielding of Saints, especially the fielding; while Saint Andrew's claimed their catches, Grey grassed a couple.
In the end, 17 extras conceded by Grey to just four by Saints, which were leg byes, helped Saint Andrew's to victory.
The Coca-Cola Schools T20 Challenge has been very good to Saint Andrew's in recent years
Saints qualified for the final with a very big 176-run over Voortrekker Bethlehem, followed by a 100-run win over Sasolburg High on Saturday.
Against Voortrekker, Henré Koekemoer played his customary role of pinch-hitter superbly, smashing six fours and three sixes in an innings of 56 off of only 24 balls, which gave Saints the impetus to post a big total.
Ruan Cronjé, in at three, played the pivotal innings of the Saints' batting effort, making an undefeated 100 from only 48 deliveries, including 10 fours and four sixes. He was very well supported by the skipper, Corné Viljoen, who finished unbeaten on 58 from 37 balls, with five fours and a six. Together, Ruan and Corné added an unbroken 169 for the third wicket.
Voortrekker struggled in their reply, with only two batsman making it into double-figures after they were reduced to 10 for 4 early on. In the end, they mustered 70 all out.
Ruan Cronjé picked up 2 for 10 from his four overs, Pheko Moletsane 2 for 11 in 4, and Reeza Alexander 2 for 7 in 2.1.
Next up, against Sasolburg High, Saint Andrew's posted 205 for 6. Captain Corné Viljoen led from the front with an innings of 68 off of only 39 balls, with eight fours and a six.
Reece van Staden, meanwhile, gave the innings a powerful late boost, blasting four sixes and a four in an unbeaten innings of 45 from just 19 deliveries.
Sasolburg's top three batsmen all made runs, but they couldn't push on from there as Naleli Sekhibane tore the heart out of their innings, snaring 4 for 7 in his four overs, which led Saints to a very convincing win.
Saints' coach Gregg Hobson said the two Saturday matches helped his batsmen regain some much needed confidence. However, the bowling and fielding played a far greater role in the side's success.
Pheko Moletsane and Ruan Cronjé are back to their best with the ball, he said. He also credited the PitchVision equipment with helping to identify a technical issue with Ruan's bowling. Once it was speedily resolved, he was on song again.
The Knights Coca-Cola Challenge T20 final
Saint Andrew's will take on the Northern Cape champions on 8 March on Vossie's Field for the right to represent the Knights at the national finals of the T20 competition again.
Saint Andrew's 246 for 2 (Ruan Cronjé 100*, Corné Viljoen 58*, Henré Koekemoer 56)
Voortrekker Bethlehem 70 all out (Ruan Cronjé 2 for 10, Pheko Moletsane 2 for 11, Reeza Alexander 2 for 7)
Saints won by 176 runs
Saint Andrew's 205 for 2 (Corné Viljoen 68, Reece van Staden 45*)
Sasolburg High 105 for 6 (Naleli Sekhibane 4 for 7)
Saints won by 100 runs
Grey College 96 for 7 (Pheko Moletsane 3 for 7, Ruan Cronjé 2 for 15)
Saint Andrew's 97 for 7 (Reece van Staden 19*)
Saints won by three wickets