By Ross Roche
The 2017 Africa Cup semifinalists were confirmed at the weekend after pool D was battled out at Buffalo Park, with KwaZulu-Natal Inland emerging victorious while Boland, Zimbabwe and hosts Border, were left disappointed.
Inland will now take on Gauteng in the semis, with Namibia up against Free State in Kimberley this coming weekend.
“We did everything we needed to do, I am thrilled to get through to the finals but I still believe we have more in the tank, we are not quite where we should be so we have a bit of work to do,” said Inland coach Shane Burger.
“All of the teams in this pool were tough, Border are a hell of a tough side as well as Boland and Zimbabwe can do anything on their day, so I am just really relieved to get through the group and just glad that we played decent enough cricket to get through.”
Like in 2016, inclement weather was however the main talking point and almost saw the weekend washed out and the qualifier decided by lucky draw again, but with the weather clearing the ground staff did a superb job to get both games on the final day played.
“We were really concerned in the morning, we really didn’t want it to come down to drawing balls from a bag which is what happened previously, so massive credit to Border and the groundsman Ashley [Nel], I think they did a phenomenal job to get the game on when the weather looked poor,” said Burger.
With six matches meant to be played over the weekend only three were possible in the end.
Friday saw Inland beat Zimbabwe by three wickets to get off to a good start, but the Border v Boland game was then washed out just four overs into Boland’s innings after they were sent into bat first.
The whole of Saturday was washed out, so on Sunday morning Inland sat top of the pool on six points, four for their win and two for Saturday’s no result.
Border and Boland were both sat on four points from two no results each and Zimbabwe bottom on two points.
With play delayed with further early morning rain, the Boland v Zimbabwe got under way with 15-overs a side.
However, Boland did not need that many as they skittled Zimbabwe for 76 and then chased it down with 10 wickets in hand for a massive win.
“We are just thankful that we got to play some cricket, it is great for the guys to have got some exposure and to show their skills,” said Boland coach Johann Louw.
“It was a fantastic bowling performance, I think we executed well upfront with the seamers and then the spinners came in and did the job for us, and our batsmen then followed suit.”
Due to that result it put Boland top on nine points meaning that for Border to go through they would have to beat Inland with a bonus point and a good net run-rate to pass Boland, while Inland just needed to get the win.
In the end despite a spirited batting effort from Jerry Nqolo, who hit an unbeaten 61 to get Border to 164/7 at the end of their 20 overs, it was not enough with Inland chasing it down for a six-wicket win to put them through to the weekend finals.
“It is better to lose a game than to go out by drawing balls, so I was glad that we managed to get onto the field,” admitted Border coach Frank Plaatjes.
“I was happy with the performance but we just felt we were always under the pump chasing the bonus point and it showed in the end.
“But I am happy with where we are at, it is a pity about the result but we can build on this going into the rest of the season.”
Border will next be in action in late October when their three-day and one-day seasons get under way.