Africa T20 Cup: Semi-Finals Preview

We preview the two Africa T20 Cup semi-finals set to take place at the Diamond Oval on Sunday 24 September.

Neither of the first semi-finalists graduated to this stage of the tournament last year, while the second pair have enjoyed a solid turnaround after poor previous campaigns.

Whichever Sunday's results and Monday's finalists stack up, the competition will welcome a new champion, after 2015 winners Northerns and 2016 champions Eastern Province failed to graduate this time.

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Gauteng v Hollywoodbets KZN Inland

Sunday, 24 September | Diamond Oval, Kimberley | 9:30

To Win Match
Gauteng 82/100 | Tie 35/1 | KwaZulu-Natal Inland 1/1

Gauteng managed to shrug off defeat at the hands of Eastern Province by securing back-to-back victories over Northerns and North West earlier this month. Both those wins were earned by chasing relatively modest totals and, if triumphant at the toss on Sunday, they'll probably want to bowl first again.

They might have to do without Stephen Cook and Mangaliso Mosehle, who were central to their Pool B campaign, but are now in the thick of the Lions' Sunfoil Series pursuits. If they are absent, a lot more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Ryan Rickelton, who was a surprise pick for the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars in late August's T20 Global League player draft.

Bowing-wise, Gauteng will want seamer Matt McGillivray and spinner Aaron Phangiso to operate well in tandem, in particular. The former will have to deploy plenty of variations on a dry pitch, while the latter's penchant for taking pace off the ball will be key against an opposition order entirely comfortable with attacking the quicker stuff.

Hollywoodbets KZN Inland
Opportunity knocks for KwaZulu-Natal Inland to achieve what they couldn't in 2015, when they were beaten by Northerns in the final. That fixture was lost due to the collective inadequacies of the middle order and a muddled approach from the bowling attack, which have largely been rectified since.

This year's campaign might have followed a different path, had their Pool D encounter against Boland not been washed out. Solid wins over Zimbabwe and Border, however, have seen them progress, regardless. Consecutive half-centuries from Sarel Erwee proved important then, and a third is the demand this time, too.

KwaZulu-Natal Inland boast the two highest totals - 170 for four and 166 for seven - in the 2017 edition of the fledgling T20 tournament. Their bowlers, spearheaded by Kerwin Mungroo and Gareth Dukes and well supported by Nduduzo Mfoza andAttie Maposa, have performed well collectively, too. The balance of the XI, indeed, seems right.

Verdict: Hollywoodbets KwaZulu-Natal Inland 1/1
Successfully combating Cook, Rickelton and Mosehle will be key for KwaZulu-Natal Inland. If they can do that - and relish another inspired showing from Dukes and company - a maiden title is theirs for the taking.

Namibia v Free State

Sunday, 24 September | Diamond Oval, Kimberley | 13:00

To Win Match
Namibia 92/100 | Tie 35/1 | Free State 92/100

Having finished stone last in Pool C in 2015 and the same in Pool A in 2016, Namibia have relished a complete turnaround this year en route to relatively shock victories over Western Province, Easterns and South Western Districts. Two more triumphs, and they will have entirely justified Cricket South Africa's decision to include countries from beyond the border in the competition.

The bulk of the 21 victories recorded in the 2017 tournament have been gathered by the team batting second. Namibia have contributed heavily to the 15-strong trend, winning each of their matches in pursuit of challenging targets. Free State, then, if victorious at the flip of the coin, will do well to have the opposition bat first.

The role of Sarel Burger has been instrumental throughout - and the captain will again need to draw plenty of big match temperament out of his charges. Lohan Louwrens has ample temperament - and one surmises the 18-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman's performance, good or bad, will make or break the backbone of the top order. He is that influential.

Free State
Free State sport a hefty advantage, in that they played all their pool matches at the venue for the semi-final - and would have collected and detailed plenty of knowledge and insight about the conditions they'll encounter at the Diamond Oval in Kimberley on Sunday. Comfortably triumphant over Hollywoodbets KwaZulu-Natal Coastal and Northern Cape, they'll want to rectify the problems endured in defeat to Kenya.

Depending which way viewed, Free State should be more match fit than their opposition, too. Their last game was on 10 September, but Namibia haven't played competitive cricket since 27 August. That said, Namibia might counter potential ring rustiness by being pretty fresh on the back of a decent break.

Free State, too, should have Keegan Petersen back in their ranks. The talented 24-year-old will be brimming with confidence on the back of a big century in the Sunfoil Series against the Cape Cobras - and eager to carry this fine first-class form into a big performance in the shortest format.

Verdict: Namibia 92/100
Despite their three successive victories, one still sees Namibia as the underdogs, but capable of springing a fourth surprise on their way to Monday's final.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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