The dreaded “C word” may be ringing in Cobras coach Paul Adams’s ears as he will wonder where it all went wrong at Kingsmead in Durban when he wakes up on Thursday.
His team were cruising to victory despite the Dolphins’ commanding 178/3 in their 20 overs.
Opener Richard Levi destroyed the Dolphins attack to take the Cape side to 113/2 in 11 overs, and they needed just 66 runs to win off the last nine, which equates to a run-rate of just above seven.
That is a doddle in T20 cricket, but not so for the Cobras. Levi ran out of steam to be dismissed for an unbelievable exhibition of power-hitting with 85 off just 43 balls (6x4, 7x6), but the Cobras were still in charge in their run-chase.
They were on 132/3 in 13.4 overs when Levi was caught by Khaya Zondo off part-timer Cameron Delport, with the Cobras needing just 47 runs to win off 38 balls.
Then the implosion came. Despite left-hander Lesiba Ngoepe’s spirited application at the one end, the rest of the batsmen curled up into a ball of pressure in trying to hit boundaries to end the match instead of pushing the ones and twos.
Rory Kleinveldt (4) was sent up the order, but didn’t last long, and then Ngoepe (32 off 26 balls, 1x4, 1x6) lost his cool to chip the skilful Andile Phehlukwayo to Dwayne Bravo at long-off.
Even at that late stage the Cobras were favourites as they required 16 runs to win off 14 balls, with captain Justin Ontong and the experienced Robin Peterson at the crease.
But both batsmen battled to get Bravo and Phehlukwayo away on a slowish Kingsmead track as the Dolphins bowlers produced classy changes of pace to flummox the Cobras batsmen.
Just after his bat broke while digging out a yorker, Peterson hoisted Bravo to Delport at long-on for three, and suddenly things were tight for the Cobras as they needed 10 runs off seven balls.
Ontong, who has battled with his form throughout the tournament, was the man who had to take his team home, but after getting a single off Bravo’s final ball (1/27 in four overs), the Cobras had to score nine off the last over from Phehlukwayo.
Ontong and SA Engelbrecht could only exchange singles, and with seven required off four balls, the Cobras cracked under pressure as Ontong gambled on a second run, but David Miller’s throw from long-off was too good and the skipper was well short of his ground.
Phehlukwayo mixed up his deliveries in dynamic fashion, and got new batsman Dane Paterson to hold out to Miller on the same long-off boundary for a duck.
It was up to Engelbrecht to be the Cobras hero, with six runs needed off the last two balls. But Phehlukwayo (2/28 in four overs) forced two dot balls to clinch victory for the Dolphins and a place in Saturday’s final against the Titans in Centurion.
Apart from their bowling and fielding heroics, the Dolphins had Delport to thank for spearheading their charge to their 178-run total as the left-handed opener climbed into the Cobras attack, hitting 55 off 37 balls (4x4, 4x6).
Captain Morné van Wyk was as solid as ever in compiling a crucial 57 off 49 deliveries (6x4, 1x6), which laid the platform for England superstar Kevin Pietersen to come in for a cameo 27 off 10 balls, while Miller got a few big blows in at the end to finish on 33 not out off 24 (1x4, 2x6).
Fast bowler Paterson was the best Cobras bowler with 2/24 in four overs, while Wayne Parnell bowled with good pace, but didn’t get any wickets to go with his 27 off 22 balls as an opening batsman.
Original source: Levi heroics can’t save Cobras