Jozi Stars 230 for 3 (Hendricks 104*, Rickelton 45) beat Durban Heat 177 (van Wyk 66, Rabada 4-27) by 53 runs
Reeza Hendricks cracked the maiden century of the Mzansi Super League as Jozi Stars buried Durban Heat under a mountain of runs to climb to the third place. Asked to bat on a belter in Johannesburg, Stars’ batsmen pulverised the opposition, one after the other, in a savage assault. It gave them a cushion of 230 runs – 21 clear of the previous highest total of the tournament, which also belonged to Stars – a good 146 of which came from fours and sixes.
What started out as a lesson in the art of preserving wickets and pacing a T20 innings, wound up being an exhibition of death-overs batting. By the time the Stars innings ended, Heat had no idea what had hit them. Specifically, the overs between 14 and 20 were a haze, as Stars pillaged 114 runs in that period.
As it is Johannesburg is a treat to bat on – this is the venue of that AB de Villiers hundred, remember? – owing to the ground’s natural topography. The high altitude means the ball flies off the bat, and the hardness of the surface gives batsmen the ideal pace they need off it. Add to that small boundaries, and you either have to be a genius who can conjure magic at will, or be extremely adroit with your variations. If you’re unable to tick either of those boxes, you simply close your eyes and pray for the best.
It was the last of those that was on display on Friday. Heat’s bowlers offered up an assortment of poor deliveries. They bowled too full. They fed the arc of the batsmen, giving them the ideal amount of room. Changes in pace were sussed out early, and tighter lines were dealt with by smart movements around the crease.
Hendricks and Ryan Rickelton took minimal time to get down to business. Barring three, every over in the first ten contained at least one boundary. As one would expect with such striking, Stars’ progression wasn’t without some slice of luck. Hendricks, in particular, walked a slippery path early, his first three fours arriving via a powerful whip over midwicket, an inside edge to fine leg, and a leading edge through backward point.
But the streaky strokes soon made way for more meaty ones. A full-blooded shovel over midwicket by Hendricks brought up the fifty of the opening stand, in the last over of the Powerplay. With Rickelton too finding frequent boundaries at the other end – three fours and two sixes in 33 balls – Stars were closing in on the 100-run mark at the start of the 11th over when respite finally arrived. And it took a tremendous catch – Hashim Amla falling to his right at point to snare a Rickelton cut – to end a start so good.
However, the worst was yet to come. Rassie van der Dussen provided the first glimpse of that when he cracked four successive sixes off Tladi Bokako in the 14th over, and ended it with a powerful drive through extra cover, making it 30 from the over. Hendricks kept the punishment going with three sixes and a four in the 16th over, off Vernon Philander.
Once van der Dussen departed, Heat were in for an even ruder shock as Daniel Christian unleashed a boundary barrage of his own. The manner of Christian’s progression meant that Hendricks had to wait until the last over to get to the hundred despite having moved into the 90s in the 17th over.
Heat put up a brave effort in their response, especially considering they lost three wickets to Kagiso Rabada in the very first over. Everything Heat’s bowlers couldn’t discover in the first innings, Stars’ did: pace, bounce, and movement off the deck. Even so, with Johannesburg’s reputation for putting up thrilling chases, nothing could be ruled out. Morne van Wyk kept the fight alive with another six-heavy attack, but with Heat unable to plug the fall of wickets at the other end, it was a lost battle. Through the first half, Heat maintained a run rate of over ten, but had lost six wickets. In all, Heat managed four overs of 17 runs each, and struck 17 fours and nine sixes in their innings. It made for an entertaining viewing, but was nowhere close to enough as they crumbled under the magnitude of the task in front.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo