An unbeaten half-century from captain Ryan McLaren helped the Chevrolet Knights reach a score of 272 for eight in reply to the bizhub Highveld Lions first innings total of 348 before bad light brought a premature end to the second day’s play at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.
Rilee Rossouw had earlier made 97, and his third-wicket partnership of 156 with Ryan Bailey had put the visitors in a good position. But a middle-order collapse put the Chevrolet Knights under immense pressure, and it was left to McLaren and Quinton Friend to resurrect the innings late in the day’s play.
The bizhub Highveld Lions had resumed the day on 332 for seven in their first innings, with Thami Tsolekile and Garnett Kruger enjoying overnight scores of 44 and three not out respectively. The Chevrolet Knights were swift in their efforts to wrap up the tail though, as Kruger fell in the third over of the day to Johan van der Wath with the score on 342.
Tsolekile, who was looking to make an impression on the national selectors, could only manage two more runs before being caught behind off Quinton Friend. Pumelela Matshikwe was then the last man to go as Van der Wath had him clean bowled an over later, yielding the 34 year-old quick fine figures of five for 63.
The Chevrolet Knights reply got off to the worst possible start, though, as Kruger had left-handed opener Michael Erlank caught behind off the very first ball of the innings. His opening partner, Rudi Second, joined him in the pavilion two overs later as Kruger claimed his second victim to leave the visitors reeling at three for two.
Rossouw and Bailey absorbed some good pressure from the fired-up bowlers, and their brave efforts allowed the Chevrolet Knights to reach lunch on a more respectable score of 42 for two.
A fine counter-punch then came off the blade of Rossouw after the interval, as he put the heat back on to the Lions attack with a dazzling display of strokeplay. After finding the fence on a regular basis, the 23-year-old left-hander brought up his half-century with a controlled pull through mid-wicket. A few overs later, he brought up another milestone as a push for two through the covers brought up his 3 000th run in first-class cricket.
The right-handed Bailey had initially been the more circumspect of the two batsmen, but his confidence grew in the presence of his more aggressive partner, and after the pair had put on 100 he began to accelerate his innings. A big six over mid-on off Eddie Leie was the catalyst, and two overs later he brought up his own half-century and the 150 for his side with another fine stroke for four.
Rossouw had continued on his merry way in the meantime, but with half an hour until tea, he fell to the bowling of Brett Pelser just three short of a richly deserved century. However, his scorching 120-ball knock, which included 18 boundaries, had put his side into a useful position at 159 for three.
The new man in was Obus Pienaar, and he and Bailey looked to have done the hard work in the remaining overs before the interval. But Pienaar was trapped in front by Imran Tahir with just three balls left, and the visitors thus went into the break on 184 for four.
The Chevrolet Knights were now in need of consolidating the good work done during the third-wicket partnership, but Bailey lasted just five more overs before being clean bowled by Kruger. He left the park with a well-played 78 to his name, but the bizhub Highveld Lions could now sense an opportunity to impose themselves on the game with the score at 196 for five.
And they did just that as Kruger then removed Werner Coetsee and Van der Wath in the space of just two overs to rack up his five-for, before Tahir had Shadley van Schalkwyk caught at mid-on to suddenly leave the batting side in disarray at 215 for eight.
Chevrolet Knights’ skipper McLaren, who had seen four wickets fall around him, finally received some much-needed support in the form of tail-ender Friend, and he kept things ticking over as he brought up the 250 for his side just as the new ball was due.
Kruger and Matshikwe were tasked with making the new cherry count in the final nine overs of the day, but McLaren and Friend were proving hard to dislodge, and the captain brought up his half-century four overs later to round off a superb rear-guard.
The duo continued to frustrate the hosts, and they remained resolute until bad light brought an end to the day’s play with the Chevrolet Knights on 272 for eight – just 76 runs behind the bizhub Highveld Lions. McLaren will resume day three on 52 not out, while Friend’s stubborn resistance has seen him reach 14 not out from 69 balls.
The bizhub Highveld Lions will claim all four bowling points if they take at least one wicket in the first 14.2 overs of play tomorrow, while the Chevrolet Knights will be looking to add to the tally of 3.44 batting points that they have amassed thus far.
bizhub Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile (wk), Eddie Leie, Garnett Kruger, Imran Tahir, Pumelela Matshikwe, Brett Pelser.
Chevrolet Knights: Ryan McLaren (capt), Michael Erlank, Rilee Rossouw, Rudi Second (wk), Ryan Bailey, Obus Pienaar, Werner Coetsee, Quinton Friend, Johan van der Wath, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Malusi Siboto