There were some scares for the faithful Warriors fans as the home team grabbed a four-wicket victory over bottom-of-the log, the VKB Knights, who had earlier managed a most disappointing 96 for seven wickets in their 20 overs in an exciting CSA T20 Challenge match at Buffalo Park, East London on Sunday.
The home side made 99 for seven wickets and the win means the Warriors will host a semifinal play-off at Buffalo Park against the Cape Cobras on Wednesday, May 1.
At one stage the Knights were struggling on 38 for seven wickets after Warriors fast bowler Andrew Birch had grabbed four of the first five wickets to fall in a most impressive spell of 4-1-10-4.
Then veteran allrounder Ryan McLaren, 39 not out and Tshepo Ntuli, 21 not out, managed to add 58 priceless runs for the eighth wicket to save the Knights’ blushes.
There were a couple of injudicious shots by the early batsmen which helped Birch record his third four-wicket haul in T20 games. His 5/16 against the Titans two seasons ago remains his best. But he bowled fast, straight and furiously with two batsmen being clean-bowled and one leg-before-wicket.
The first to go was 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 bit of a procession with Raynard van Tonder,6, Pite van Biljon, 0, and Grant Mokoena, 1, out in quick succession.
Then young left-arm spinner, Jade de Klerk, in his second over, grabbed the key wicket of Andries Gous, trapping him leg-before wicket, and then having debutante Marco Jansen out first ball, caught in the slips. But there was no hat-trick for the youngster but by then the Knights’ innings was in tatters. De Klerk recorded his best career figures of 2/17 in his four overs.
McLaren batted superbly, and his experience shone through brightly, although he was fortunate to be dropped on 13 on the fine-leg boundary.
The Warriors started off in grand style, but suddenly wickets started falling and the realtively small target of 97 appeared to be out of reach of the home team. At 81 for five wickets, there were some anxious moments for the Warriors supporters.
Opener, the left-handed Gihahn Cloete, with 40, managed to get the Warriors close to the target and sixes to Marco Marais, 15, and Birch, 6 not out, eased matters for the Warriors and they eventually got over the line with 17 balls to spare.
The only sad moment of an engrossing game of cricket was the announcement that McLaren has retired after a long and distinguished career. He played two tests for the Proteas, along with 54 ODIs and 12 Twenty20 Internationals.
Above: CSA T20 Challenge match between Warriors and Knights at Buffalo Park East London. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images)