THE Chevrolet Knights became the first team to tame the bizhub Highveld Lions in the Momentum One-Day Cup this season as they pulled off a six-wicket victory in a rain-affected match at Senwes Park with seven balls to spare.
The Chevrolet Knights were set a target of 251 at just over five runs to the over, but a heavy drizzle took the players from the field in the second over. Despite several attempts to restart, fifteen overs were lost before play resumed with the target being reduced to 212 in 35 overs.
Pumelela Matshikwe struck in his first over, inducing makeshift opener Werner Coetsee to play on, and Rilee Rossouw was clean bowled by Zander de Bruyn. A second interruption followed ten overs later with the Chevrolet Knights in a spot of bother on 49 for two. Two further overs were lost, with a further reduction in the target to 204 in 33 overs.
Fortunately there were to be no further disruptions. Michael Erlank and Ryan Bailey took their partnership to 28 before Bailey became Matshikwe’s second victim, undone by a change of pace. At 75 for three, the Chevrolet Knights were still some way from home.
Obus Pienaar came to the crease and struck the ball cleanly from the start. He was particularly severe on Aaron Phangiso, plundering 23 off twelve balls in the left-armer’s first spell. Phangiso went for 37 in four overs, his worst performance of the season.
While Erlank set himself to bat through the innings, Pienaar contributed 41 of the 50 partnership for the fourth wicket. Erlank was eventually caught at mid on for 52 off 79 balls (4 fours and what proved to be the only six of the match). This was his first half-century in the colours of the franchise.
Any hopes that this breakthrough might bring the bizhub Highveld Lions back into the game were dashed as Ryan McLaren came out all guns blazing. He struck a boundary off his first ball, and with Pienaar going to his 50 off just 30 balls, the Chevrolet Knights hurried down the home straight. Pienaar finished unbeaten on 67 (43 balls, 11 fours) and McLaren on 41 (30 balls, 7 fours). Their unbeaten partnership contributed 64 off just 48 balls.
None of the bizhub Highveld Lions bowlers could contain the Chevrolet Knights. Matshikwe finished with two wickets and Hardus Viljoen one to take his tally for the season to thirteen. De Bruyn was the only bowler to maintain an economy rate of below five to the over. Phangiso bowled a good comeback over at the end, but could not repair the earlier damage to his figures.
Earlier, the bizhub Highveld Lions had been restricted to 250 for seven despite another impressive performance by Stephen Cook (52) and Neil McKenzie (67 not out) after the bizhub Highveld Lions had won the toss and elected to bat first. McLaren took three for 51 while spinners Werner Coetsee and Nicky Boje both returned tight spells to keep the bizhub Highveld Lions in check.
McLaren took the Man of the Match award for another solid all-round performance. Despite their first defeat, the bizhub Highveld Lions maintain a comfortable nine-point lead as the first round of matches reaches completion. The Chevrolet Knights moved up to third place, but the traffic is building in the middle of the table.