Tuff Dogs remain on course for clean sweep
Tuff Dogs remain on course to complete a clean sweep of the Evening Cricket League trophies after McLaren Lowe and Trevor Corday cracked unbeaten half-centuries while forging a century partnership to secure a berth in Saturday's season-ending knockout final at Shelly Bay.
Their opponents will be Renegades, who have played second fiddle to Terence Corday's team all season.
Tuff Dogs first defeated Renegades by ten wickets in the final of the delayed 2021 knockout in May and followed it up by beating them by six wickets in a dramatic last-ball victory in the league en route to ending Renegades' two-year regular-season dominance.
Only CV Chargers have beaten Tuff Dogs all season.
While Tuff Dogs cantered into the knockout final with a nine-wicket win against KPMG, a superb 92 from Daniel Lourens, the stand-in captain, notwithstanding, Renegades scraped home by just one run in the other semi-final despite the best efforts of West XI's hard-hitting Steve Jones.
Dean Stephens guided PHC into the plate final, in which they will face Bailey's Bay, with an unbeaten half-century in a nine-wicket win over nine-man De Wicketest.
KPMG, who thrashed former champions The Associates in the first round after earning a spot in the top tier following High Flyaz's withdrawal, posted a competitive 143 for seven in their 16 overs after electing to bat, but were powerless to halt Tuff Dogs, who eased home with eight balls to spare.
KPMG went into the game without Alistair Lynch and Dan Roy, who led the way against The Associates with a stand of 120, but Lourens proved an able deputy for the absent captain Michael Campbell, "hitting the ball to all parts", according to Terence Corday, after being dropped on three.
Lourens and Craig Munden led a recovery from 39 for four with a 92-run partnership to give the total a healthier look as Bevin Carr snapped up three for 19. Despite losing Azeem Khan for 12, Tuff Dogs' second-wicket pair of Lowe (62 not out) and Trevor Corday (54 not out) took control with a stand of 126 in their team's 147 for one.
"It was a very impressive display of hitting by their captain [Lourens] and we got off to a shaky start in reply, losing Azeem [Khan] early, but confidence is high with both McLaren [Lowe] and Trevor [Corday], who is coming off successive half-centuries," said Terence Corday.
"KPMG's opening bowler [Munden] was tough to get away, so the guys just tried to score off the other bowlers and in the end it was a pretty comfortable run chase with two quality knocks."
He added: "Credit to KPMG for a really good season and advancing in the play-offs [knockout]. I think they could cause a few problems next season!"
Campbell called it "a massive improvement from last season".
West XI's Jones, who finished on 73 not out from 42 balls, gave Renegades a fright. Needing ten off the final two deliveries from Christof Van Tonder, Jones hammered the fifth ball for six before he skied the last ball and managed to run only two.
“It was nerve-racking and we were very relieved to get the win.” said Ryan Miller, Renegades' captain.
Van Tonder earlier laid the foundation for Renegades' 153 for five, smashing five sixes in a quickfire 50 not out. Jones claimed two for 24 and Jim West, the captain, two for 32, before West XI closed on 152 for four in reply, Sivakumar Senthamaraikannan chipping in with 25, as Ryan Mather picked up two for 20.
“West XI started very well and were well ahead of the rate until Michael Ford picked up the big wicket of Jim West. But Steve Jones, their No 3, batted really well with some big sixes to take it down to the last over,” said Miller.
Jones said: “Mid-season we were bottom of the league [group one]. We worked hard to shape the team for the better. West XI will work hard over the off-season and come back stronger [next season].”
Looking ahead to Saturday's final against Renegades starting at 1.30pm, Corday said: “It's always a competitive game when we meet them, and it is tough beating the same team three times in a season.
“But when we are at full strength we are confident we can be successful against any team. Looking forward to another close contest.“
Miller said: “We're excited to get the chance to have another go at Tuff Dogs. They have been very strong all season, so it's going to be tough, but we're looking forward to the challenge.”
De Wicketest posted 100 for seven in 13 overs, but the handicap of playing two short proved too great and PHC raced home in 9.2 overs, Stephens finishing on 60 not out after Antwan Russell went for 26.
Saturday's plate final will start at 10.30am.
Shelly Bay (KPMG won toss): KPMG 143-7 (16 overs; Daniel Lourens 92; Bevin Carr 3 for 19); Tuff Dogs 147-1 (14.4 overs; McLaren Lowe 62 not out, Trevor Corday 54 not out). Tuff Dogs beat KPMG by nine wickets.
Shelly Bay (Renegades won toss): Renegades 153-5 (16 overs; Christof Van Tonder 50 not out); West XI 152-4 (16 overs; Steve Jones 73 not out).
Shelly Bay (De Wicketest won toss): De Wicketest (nine men) 100-7 (13 overs); PHC 101-1 (9.2 overs; Dean Stephens 60 not out). PHC beat De Wicketest by nine wickets.