A maiden career century by captain Temba Bavuma upstaged that of counterpart Jon-Jon Smuts as the bizhub Highveld Lions won a thrilling CSA T20 Challenge final, beating the Warriors by 11 runs in Johannesburg on Sunday evening.
The home skipper smashed 104 off 63 balls (11 fours, 2 sixes) that was bettered by Warriors ace Smuts’ 121 off 60 balls (11 fours, 7 sixes) as he single-handedly dragged his side to the brink, before agony struck.
He was dismissed with 12 needed off five balls, having walked in with his side on five for one and then saw them slump to 56 for five in pursuit of 204.
And despite playing one of the finest innings witnessed in the format, his day ended in pain when Nono Pongolo held on to a good catch in the deep after a collision with Reeza Hendricks as the Lions celebrated.
The trophy was their second of a dream campaign in which they also won the 4-Day Domestic Series title, with the match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium drawing the curtain on the 2018/19 franchise season.
The match itself was about a few individuals. Bavuma’s innings was made possible by a sensational Rassie van der Dussen at the other end, with the pair sharing in a record 165-run third wicket partnership after they had slipped to 30 for two after losing the toss and being put into bat.
Standard Bank Proteas star Van der Dussen clubbed 73 off 41 balls (3 fours, 5 sixes) to help his captain break a long-standing record of 154 held by Henry Davids and Benji Hector for the Cape Cobras against the Eagles at Kimberley in 2006/07.
It was also the second highest stand for any wicket in the franchise T20 tournament, with the pair especially brutal on Sithembile Langa, thrashing him for 69 in four overs, another competition record and one that surpassed the none for 57 by Junior Dala for the Titans against the Knights in 2016/17.
Andrew Birch on the other hand finished with the best figures for his side, a solid three for 36.
The men from Eastern Cape then looked like they were going to roll over even before the chase could get going as the outstanding Bjorn Fortuin (4/27), one of the stars of the T20 event, ripped through their top order.
He was well supported by Migael Pretorius (3/35) as the match appeared to be headed for an early finish.
But Smuts finally found some support through Onke Nyaku (27) as they added 73 for the sixth wicket to get the score to 129.
Although there was not much support from there, Smuts took the game right down to the wire, aided by an expensive 16-run penultimate over by Lizaad Williams (2/49).
But Pretorius enticed the false stroke with just 12 needed and Pongolo held on to the crucial skier by the key batsmen to send the Lions into delirium.