By Peter Martin / HeraldLive
The Knights came to Buffalo Park on Sunday, lost the toss, then lost the plot and finally lost the match to the Warriors side, whose four-wicket victory ensured them a home semifinal game when the CSA T20 Challenge knock-out matches start on Wednesday.
The game is scheduled for Buffalo Park.
Without a doubt the hero for the Warriors was fast bowler Andrew Birch who bowled fast and furiously to take four of the first five Knights’ wickets to fall and have them deep in trouble at 38 for seven wickets in the 10th over of their innings. In addition Birch was at the crease when victory was obtained.
The Knights were saved some blushes by veteran allrounder Ryan McLaren, who scored 39 not out and Tshepo Ntuli, 21 not out. The two batsmen added 58 unbeaten runs for the eighth wicket which took the Knights to a disappointing 96 for seven wickets in their 20 overs.
The first to go was left-hander Shadley van Schalkwyk, who mistimed a hook and was caught for four at 17 for one wicket. Two balls later Patrick Kruger was bowled for 11 with no addition to the score. Thereafter there was a procession with Raynard van Tonder,6, Pite van Biljon, 0, and Grant Mokoena, 1, all dismissed in quick succession.
Birch finished with the brilliant figures of 4/10 off his four overs, including the only maiden of the innings. This was the third occasion he has snared four wickets in a match but his best remains the 5/16 he took against the Titans two seasons back.
He was well supported by young left-arm spinner Jade de Klerk, who took 2/17 in his four overs – his career-best in Twenty20 cricket. He got rid of the experienced Andries Gous and then next ball dismissed new boy Marco Jansen. However, there was no hat-trick for the promising spinner.
Looking for 97, the Warriors almost lost the plot as well, with Matthew Breetzke, captain Jon-Jon Smuts amd Sinethembe Qeshile all back in the hut for 48, but Gihahn Cloete batted aggressively for 40, and almost took the Warriors to victory.
But some excellent bowling by the lanky 18-year-old left-arm seamer Jansen, slowed down the scoring and he finished with the impressive figures of 1/14 off four overs.
What would have made the match memorable for him was the taking of Smuts’s wicket when the Warriors’ skipper completely mistimed a big hit.
As the Warriors approached their target, there were some scares, with hard-hitting Marco Marais, 15, and Onke Nyaku, 3, going in successive overs, but Birch smacked a six off Jansen and finally wicketkeeper Gous let through four byes to seal the match for the Warriors with 17 balls to spare.
Sadly, though, it was time to bid farewell to McLaren, who has ended a most distinguished career. He played two Test matches, 54 ODIs and 12 Twenty20 internationals for the Proteas between 2009 and 2014.
Above: Andrew Birch of the Warriors during the CSA T20 Challenge match between Warriors and VKB Knights at Buffalo Park on April 28, 2019 in East London, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images)