Alagappan Muthu (ESPNcricinfo)
The romance of T20 cricket is that one ball can change the game. Cobras were reminded of it in gruesome fashion in the 18th over. Their lead bowler Vernon Philander had routed Hobart Hurricanes’ final hope when he had Aiden Blizzard caught on the long-on boundary, and it did not augur well for the chase that a new batsman had to come in with an equation of 38 off 17 balls. Blizzard was walking off the field when he was asked to wait; the umpires wanted to double-check the legality of the ball. The replay gutted Cobras – Philander had overstepped.
Blizzard had reached his fifty off the previous delivery, and he feasted on the free-hit – that monstrous six over square leg was part of a 24-run over. A match that had slowly been tipping into the Cobras’ hands was wrested away and Hurricanes hurtled to victory with one over to spare.
Philander was completely thrown. He dished out length balls and worse full tosses to be carted for two fours and two sixes in seven deliveries. Philander had caused confusion among the Hurricanes’ bowlers when Cobras batted, and had been a vital cog in a seventh-wicket partnership that razed 52 runs in four overs and inflated the target to 185. Memories of his 32 off 14 evaporated, however, as Blizzard reaped his luck to take 26 runs off eight balls to finish unbeaten on 78 off 48.
Both teams were pleased with the pitch at the start of the game. Hurricanes captain Tim Paine said it looked “terrific”; his Cobras counterpart Justin Ontong foresaw some turn and loaded his side with an extra spinner. Dane Piedt’s impact was minimal though as he injured his right arm but the other change, Sybrand Engelbrecht, thrived. The slower he bowled, the more difficult it got for Hurricanes. By the end of Engelbrecht’s spell – 4-0-20-3 – the equation was 60 off 30 balls. Charl Langeveldt, who reversed his retirement for this tournament, compounded that with a terrific 17th over that yielded only six runs – one of which was a tight wide call.
Blizzard was saddled with a required rate that was inching to 15. He had used pure power to fuel his innings and the ploy hadn’t been as effective when the bowlers opted to change their pace. His tally against spin was 29 off 27. But the situation empowered him to continue and Cobras helped him by feeding him pace and worse, at the exact length a batsman would like. His innings overshadowed another half-century at the top of the order. Ben Dunk had accumulated 41 of the 51-run opening stand.
At that stage, the chase looked perfectly on course. Cobras’ 62 runs in their Powerplay was the best in this CLT20. Hurricanes missed that by only three runs. Cobras edged ahead during a tight middle-overs period in the Hurricanes’ innings – only 47 runs came between the ninth and the 15th and there were three wickets as well.
But in the end they were disconsolate and in disbelief. They were still without points despite a blitz from Richard Levi, who offset the early dismissal of Hashim Amla with a typically muscular 42 off 30. The Hurricanes’ bowlers took their time recognising the impact of changing their pace. They had tested the pitch with Xavier Doherty in the third over. In the fifth, he beat Levi’s outside edge but the batsman hit back with two successive fours.
Eventually they caught on with Ben Laughlin showing off different variations of his slower ball to pick up 2 for 31. Levi’s dismissal in the 10th over helped, but just as the innings seemed to be meandering, Robin Peterson’s unorthodoxy and Philander peppering the straight boundary revived them. However, Philander’s luck ran out when it was time to bowl.