Ottis slays the Gauteng lion and works a miracle
Trevor Chesterfield - 24 March 1999

KIMBERLEY (South Africa) - They do not think much of statues in a town which Cecil John Rhodes helped found on a diamond mine and the major tourist attraction is a rather large hole in the ground.

In a week's time, however, the statue theory may well change and Bajan Ottis Gibson could join the war memorial, the big hole and Cecil John Rhodes as part of the council's re-issued ``sights worth seeing'' brochure. It is 110 years since Griqualand West won anything worthwhile and when they did the nearest a black man came to watching the game was from sweeping out the dressing rooms in the pavilion. All that may change in a week's time, of course when Griquas Diamonds play the winner of the Border-Free State Standard Bank Cup semi-final.

Now the West Indies all-rounder is one step away from the ``freedom'' of this dusty neck of the new South Africa. Especially if he bats the way he did last night at the Kimberley Country Club where a highly bemused Gauteng skipper, Ken Rutherford,. agreed (aggrieved too no doubt) the 76 was a match-winning innings.

Just the sort of performance to slay the visiting Gauteng lion who no doubt felt they would beat the country cousins: a broadsword of willow as dashing in execution as from Excalibur.

And the victory by four wickets, as deserved as any we are going to see in the grind of slogs this season, was worth watching: Griquas scoring 255 runs to win the game by four wickets after Gauteng had managed 254 for three wasn't a bad call at all. Then as Rutherford admitted the Gauteng total was about 16 runs short of the value of the batting surface.

Lowly Griquas, reaching the final, by upending Gauteng, blows a big hole in the theory the true limited-overs champion is the side winning the Standard Bank Cup and not the League. Well, Gauteng beat Northerns last year, so it is Gauteng stepping up to take the prize who are the worthy limited-overs champions.

This end of the season they have fallen, one by one: Natal, Western Province, Eastern Province, Northerns and now Gauteng. All the big names gone, the end of season day-night gala event becoming undervalued. After all, who in Johannesburg or the other bigger areas of the country are really interested in Border playing Griquas in the showpiece final?

It adds to the view that the knockout cup event should be played over fewer overs and have less prestige to the league, whose winners and runner's up have already become victims of the lucky draw system.

Gauteng made almost the most of the batting conditions: a surface as flat as the near by state highway. Andrew Hall picked up 99, Adam Bacher was steady enough and Rutherford was not to be left out of the runs either.

Then we had the first hint of a looming upset. Griquas who in the past battle to beat even the Essex Seconds, had 77 on the board in the 18th over and Martyn Gidley batting as well as he has ever done in a limited-overs match, hoisting a handsome four over long-on.

Kepler Wessels came and went, missing a ball from Derek Crookes which found him heaving across the line too soon and Willie Dry doing his bit.

The first ball Gibson faced was sent packing for a boundary, and a well-run two had Griquas on target if not quite keeping the run rate evenly balanced.

Only when Gidley was sent packing for 60, his response was not at all happy. He go himself out through a batting misdemeanor and he knew it. In comes Symcox and Symmo breathed a little dragon fire into the Griquas machine which stoked the fires of victory.

There were some big shots by Gibson: over the main stand where the media are housed, over long-off, over long on; straight-driven fours, well-placed taps into the covers and a few well galloped singles as well. All in a just Gibson enjoyed himself. He continued the assault after Symmo departed and with Finley Brooker too the side to the brink of victory.

A second, hurried run, however, led to his undoing as a return by Derek Crookes caught him short with the ball hitting the stumps. Not that Brooker was overawed by the demands. He lifted a six over mid-wicket for six off Dean Laing and it was all over with an over to spare.