Chris Morris produced the most economical four-over spell in T20 history as the impressive bizhub Highveld Lions attack was able to tie down the Nashua Cape Cobras batsmen as they defended a total of just 141 and won their RamSlam T20 Challenge match at the Wanderers on Friday night by 47 runs, earning an unlikely bonus point in the process.
The Cobras bowlers had also given an excellent all-round display as they restricted the Lions, who were sent in to bat, to 141 for seven in their 20 overs, but on a good pitch that nevertheless had some life in it for the bowlers, the visiting batsmen were all at sea as they ended on a meagre 94 for nine.
Morris had them on the back foot from the outset as his first two overs from the Golf Course End were maidens and included the key wicket of Richard Levi, who was on the charge having hit Lonwabo Tsotsobe for a six and two fours in the previous over. The 27-year-old then returned to bowl the 18th and 20th overs, collecting another maiden and conceding just two runs to finish with magnificent figures of 4-3-2-2.
It is the world record for the least runs conceded in a four-over spell, beating Pakistani Zulfiqar Babar’s 4-2-3-2 for Tigers v Quetta Bears in 2012, and equalled the record for most maidens (3) held by Manpreet Gony (Punjab), Samiullah Khan (Sui Gas) and Duvvarapu Shivkumar (Andhra).
Levi (20) top-edged a swipe to the leg-side straight up and Morris took the responsibility on himself to take the steepling catch and the Lions were on top in the field from then on.
Inspired by Morris, the Lions bowlers performed with an aggressive air throughout and the Cobras only had 42 on the board after seven overs when they lost their other opener, Andrew Puttick (4), when Eddie Leie plucked a drive out of the sky, on the second attempt, off Hardus Viljoen, having raced from deep mid-on to cow-corner.
The next over brought two more wickets as Dwaine Pretorius had Dane Vilas caught behind for a single. If Vilas had actually nicked the wide, full away-swinger or hit the ground, or even if the umpires were entitled to call for a review, were controversial matters, but there was little doubt four balls later when Justin Ontong (2) was strangled down the leg side, Thami Tsolekile taking a fine, low catch.
The Cobras were 47 for four after nine overs, needing 95 runs off 66 balls and if they were going to achieve that, then Kieron Pollard had to do the bulk of the scoring.
Omphile Ramela (30) and Pollard added 29 for the fifth wicket, but they took 5.2 overs to do it and the Lions had an even firmer grip on the game when they removed the pair in successive overs.
Alviro Petersen dashed in with purpose from long-on to catch Ramela off Tsotsobe and Pollard was found wanting against the unorthodox spin of Leie, struggling to 13 off 16 balls before being castled as he tried to loft the bowler back over his head.
That left the Cobras on 82 for six, wanting miracles from the tail with 60 runs required off 27 balls.
Morris returned to write his name into the record books, picking up his second wicket when George Linde (6) stepped across his stumps and was bowled.
While the glory went to Morris, enormous credit also needs to go to the other bowlers: Tsotsobe (4-0-28-1, including 17 off his second over), Pretorius (4-0-24-2), Viljoen (an outstanding 4-1-12-2) and Leie (4-0-22-1).
The Lions managed to get off to a solid start, despite the absence of Chris Gayle, laid low by a sore back, thanks to his replacement, Rassie van der Dussen.
He and Petersen took the Lions to 43 in the seventh over before left-arm wrist-spinner Linde produced a beauty to have Petersen stumped for 18.
The ball was only sporadically coming out of the middle of Van der Dussen’s bat – and he survived the simplest of chances to Mthokozisi Shezi at third man off Dane Paterson on four. But the determination of the opener and the experience of Neil McKenzie (also badly dropped by Shezi off Linde on 3) saw the Lions reach 95 for two in the 14th over and able to gather some quick runs at the death.
McKenzie (22) and Temba Bavuma (14) both fell to the wiles of Pollard and Shezi, impressive with the ball, bowled Van der Dussen for 52 off 40 balls, with three fours and two sixes. It was the best innings of the night, the late inclusion sticking to his guns.
The end of the Lions innings was marked by the brilliant fielding of Sybrand Engelbrecht, who took three excellent catches in four balls to dismiss Jean Symes (11) off Shezi, and then Morris (0) and Pretorius (9) in the final over bowled by Ferisco Adams.
The Cobras bowlers all conceded less than 27 runs, with Shezi (4-1-23-2), Pollard (4-0-26-2) and Linde (4-1-23-2) particularly impressive and the consensus was that the Lions had a below-par total.
Just as well they have such a brilliant bowling attack with Morris making history.
*New Protea Reeza Hendricks made a brilliant 76 not out off 48 balls to take the Knights to an eight-wicket win with 22 balls remaining against the Titans in Bloemfontein.
The Titans made a paltry 135 for six in their 20 overs, collapsing from 94 for one after 13 overs as three batsmen were run out. Fast bowler Quinton Friend (4-1-15-1) and seamer Shadley van Schalkwyk (4-0-26-2) made life particularly difficult for the batsmen.
*A top-class innings of 64 not out off 54 balls by Colin Ingram carried the Warriors to a seven-wicket victory off the last ball against the Dolphins in Port Elizabeth.
The Warriors, with off-spinner Simon Harmer (4-0-22-2) to the fore, produced an excellent bowling display to limit the Dolphins to 142 for six.
A partnership of 97 in 13.2 overs between Jon-Jon Smuts (54) and Ingram then broke the back of the run-chase to give the Warriors a morale-boosting win.