ROCKS KEEP THEIR HOPES ALIVE

Faf du Plessis struck his fourth half-century of the Mzansi Super League season to keep alive the Paarl Rocks’ hopes of reaching the playoffs with a key six-wicket victory over the Jozi Stars at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.

There was also a perfectly weighted unbeaten 71 (55 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) from Man of the Match Grant Thomson that anchored the innings of the visitors as they chased down a 171-victory target with three deliveries to spare in Johannesburg.

Kerwin Mungroo was their unlikely hero with the ball as the lanky fast bowler grabbed a rare chance in the competition by bowling out of his skin to claim three for 29, which included the key wickets of Chris Gayle, Reeza Hendricks and Pite van Biljon.

Victory in the end for the Paarl side enabled them to climb fourth on the table, with 17 points from nine games, four behind the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, who they will now host in a virtual shootout on Wednesday.

The Tshwane Spartans (16 points) can still catch both, but they will need to also win their remaining two games to change the order on the standings.

Defeat for the second-placed Stars, meanwhile, assured the Cape Town Blitz an automatic ticket to a home final next Sunday, with the Stars staying second on 24 points and still having some work to do in their final match against the Spartans on Tuesday.

The Jozi stars, though, will no doubt be disappointed that they did not seal their playoff berth in front of their home fans, after posting a solid 170 for six after they were put into bat first.

Their innings was built around Rassie van der Dussen’s enterprising 83 (55 balls, 6 fours, 4 sixes). This after Mungroo pegged them back at the start by dismissing Hendricks (5) and West Indian superstar Gayle (9) inside the opening 3.2 overs.

A 73-run stand between Van der Dussen and captain Dane Vilas (23) dragged the home side back into a good position, before more quick wickets threatened to derail their innings.

But support for their main batsman came through Dwaine Pretorius (28) as they set a challenging total.

The Rocks’ innings followed a similar pattern with Duanne Olivier (3/30) claiming the early wickets of Cameron Delport (15) Aiden Markram (3), leaving them on 19 for two.

However, a key 120-run stand between Du Plessis, who made 61 off 34 balls (7 fours, 2 sixes), took them too far ahead for the Stars to bring them back, even after the skipper fell, 17 not out by Dwayne Bravo helping to carry them over the line.

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