The Gladiators, who lost in the inaugural final in April against the Nashua Phantoms, sealed their place in the showpiece game with a five-wicket win over the Pirates yesterday, with the Tornados beating the Phantoms by the same margin.
The Phantoms were indebted to an unbroken stand of 88 in 11.2 overs between Roelof van der Merwe and Shaun von Berg for their total of 161 for four, but even that did not really challenge the powerful Tornados batting line-up, which completed victory in the 18th over.
Despite the loss of Aiden Markram in the first over, the Tornados’ run-chase was given the ideal start by Henry Davids and Theunis de Bruyn, who belted 65 for the second wicket off just 30 balls.
Davids fell for 34 off just 18 deliveries when he skied Niki Bouwer into the covers, but De Bruyn marched on to 51 off 31 balls before falling to off-spinner Eden Links.
David Bunn (23) also fell to Links in the 12th over, but the final 45 runs were knocked off with the minimum amount of fuss by Graeme van Buuren (19*) and Jacques Snyman (25*).
The Phantoms had won the toss and elected to bat, but three of the city’s finest young talents – Danie Rossouw, Blake Schraader and Henk Coetzee – all failed as they slipped to 45 for three. It was left to the far more streetwise Qaasim Adams to provide the bulk of the early run-scoring with his 29 off 19 balls, before the sharp work of Mangaliso Mosehle saw him stumped off the left-arm spin of Bunn.
The enigmatic batting style of Van der Merwe brought him a blazing 71 not out off 44 balls and, with the capable support of Von Berg (29*), he was able to post a competitive, but losing total.
Corbin Bosch, the son of former Test paceman Tertius, was the most impressive of the Tornados bowlers, taking one for 22 in his four overs.
In the morning game, Heinrich Klaasen slammed 54 not out off 37 balls, with Wian van Heerden contributing 32 off 23, to lift the Pirates to 138 for five, but it soon became obvious that they were short of runs as Gladiators opener Cobus Pienaar bashed 51 off 38 deliveries.
After Pienaar’s rapid start, Farhaan Behardien (34*) and Ruan Sadler (17*) were able to nudge the ball about on their way to completing victory with three balls to spare.
The Gladiators were given control by their impressive attack. New-ball bowlers Ethy Mbhalati (1-29) and Sammy Mofokeng (1-26) ran in hard and were disciplined, while left-arm spinner Ryan Houbert was again outstanding, taking two for 17 in his four overs, bringing his figures thus far in the competition to five for 39 in eight overs.
The spinners did well for the Pirates, considering the lack of runs on the board, with Tabraiz Shamsi briefly bringing the outcome into debate with two wickets in the 11th over and Ruben Claassen, the tall Tuks off-spinner, again shining with two for 21 in four overs.
In a quirk of the scheduling, the two finalists, the Tornados and Gladiators, will play each other today in a warm-up for tomorrow’s title-decider.
Scores in brief
Pirates 138-5 (Wian van Heerden 32, Heinrich Klaasen 54*; Ryan Houbert 2-17). Gladiators 141-5 (Cobus Pienaar 51, Farhaan Behardien 34*; Tabraiz Shamsi 2-18, Ruben Claassen 2-21). Gladiators won by five wickets.
Phantoms 161-4 (Qaasim Adams 29, Roelof van der Merwe 71*, Shaun von Berg 29*). Tornados 162-5 (Henry Davids 34, Theunis de Bruyn 51, David Bunn 23, Jacques Snyman 25*; Eden Links 2-26). Tornados won by five wickets.
Today: 10am Phantoms v Pirates; 1.30pm Gladiators v Tornados.
Tomorrow: 10am 3rd v 4th; 1.30pm Final.