In-form Smuts unable to rescue EP

KWAZULU-NATAL Inland completed an excellent weekend when they defeated Eastern Province by one wicket in a tight limited overs contest yesterday after wrapping up a 95-run win in their Sunfoil three-day cricket encounter at St George’s Park on Saturday.

Yesterday’s triumph, though, was probably a bit closer than it should have been because the visitors seemed to be cruising when they needed 40 runs to win with 10 overs remaining and five wickets in hand.

But a flurry of four wickets late in the innings to the EP spinners ensured the match went almost to the wire and there were only six balls remaining when Athie Maposa struck the third delivery he faced over long-on for six to clinch it for the visitors.

Earlier, Kyle Nipper had played a major role in setting up KZN Inland’s strong position. The left-arm spinner took an impressive 3/33 in 10 overs as EP were dismissed for 216 with 13 balls remaining in their innings.

He then produced a classy 54 off 82 balls to hold the KZN Inland innings together after some promising starts from the visiting top-order had not been translated into total success.

Nipper will have been disappointed not to have finished the job, but the Inland bottom-order proved themselves equal to the task as the pressure mounted.

Earlier, Kelly Smuts continued his good form with the bat, making top score of 79 for EP following his knock of 122 in the fruitless run-chase on Saturday in the three-day encounter.

Despite one false shot off spinner Nipper, which fell between the converging fielders, Smuts looked impressive throughout his innings and was disappointed to lose his wicket when he wafted at a wide delivery to fall caught behind.

His dismissal in the 35th over severely blunted EP’s ability to set a more demanding total and it is fair to say that another 10 or more overs of input from the left-hander could have made a massive difference to the final outcome.

Among the EP bowlers, Akhona Kula stood out with his return of 3/40 and Onke Nyaku did well to take 2/43.

On Saturday, EP fell short of their daunting target of scoring 348 to win, being dismissed for 252.

Smuts stood out with his 122 off 141 balls, including 17 fours and a six, and although there was some support from James Price (38) and Lloyd Brown (21), it was not nearly enough to pull off an unlikely victory.

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