Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Tshwane Spartans kept their playoff dream intact when they beat Nelson Mandela Bay Giants by 28 runs in their Mzansi Super League cricket match at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday evening.

And it was two regular "home boys" who made telling contributions to the Spartans’ effort. First up‚ Gihahn Cloete made 65 in the visitors’ imposing total of 165/4.

Then seamer Andrew Birch rocked the Giants with two quick wickets at the top of the order‚ including that of dangerman Jason Roy for a single. That left the Giants on 8/2 at the start of the third over‚ a position from which they struggled to recover.

Jon-Jon Smuts made 26‚ England international Ben Duckett top scored with 47 and Sisanda Magala smashed 31, but their target proved a bridge too far as they managed only 137/9 in reply. Legspinner Shaun von Berg mopped up the middle to lower order to take 3/23.

The result saw the Spartans breathe life into their campaign.

The Cape Town Blitz and Jozi Stars have clinched their spots in the top three bracket, and the Giants would have claimed the remaining berth had they beaten the Spartans. Instead‚ they may now have to beat the Rocks in Paarl on Wednesday, depending on how other results go.

The Spartans know they just have to keep winning. Earlier‚ Cloete underlined his worth as a top-order batsman in white ball cricket by making his third half-century of the tournament.

Returning with Birch to his Warriors stomping ground at St George’s Park‚ Cloete was severe on anything full as well as deliveries that were short and wide. His 65‚ which came off 59 balls‚ formed the backbone of the Spartans’ total of 165/4. He shared in a second-wicket partnership of 72 with Dean Elgar‚ who clubbed an aggressive 32, which featured three sixes.

AB de Villiers came into the match on 156 runs at 22.28 per innings‚ well below his career average of almost 35. He arrived at the crease with the total on 77/2 in the 10th over and survived a confident shout for leg before wicket off Imran Tahir when he had only four runs.

Television replays suggested Tahir had reason to be aggrieved when the umpire said not out. He ended up making 33. Englishman Eoin Morgan scored an unbeaten 20.

The Giants spin attack of Tahir‚ Aaron Phangiso and Smuts were not as penetrative as they have been under home conditions. Tahir picked up the only wicket between them, dismissing Elgar in the 10th over. Cloete was bowled by Chris Morris having struck five fours and two sixes, while Magala collected the wicket of De Villiers with two balls remaining in
the innings.