Neil McKenzie powered the bizhub Highveld Lions to an emphatic 6-wicket win against the Nashua Titans at Sahara Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Saturday as they moved to the top of the Sunfoil Series log.
The stylish McKenzie kept his cool while one or two members of the top-order lost theirs. He finished with an undefeated 40. He faced 72 balls and hit three fours.
McKenzie hit a straight drive for a boundary off leg-spinner Shaun von Berg shortly before the scheduled lunch-break to guide the Lions to 184 for four and a morale-boosting win for the visitors. The winning target was 181 runs.
With this win the bizhub Highveld Lions collected 16.04 points. They are now at the top of the log with 95.22 points from eight matches. The Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras are second on 92.18, also after eight fixtures. The Nashua Titans managed 5.90 points.
The bizhub Highveld Lions resumed on 74 without loss on Saturday. But it was not smooth sailing. Rather, it was a tension-filled session as the aggressive Nashua Titans attack initially engaged them in trench warfare on a treacherous surface, renowned for its inconsistent bounce.
A triple-strike by the Nashua Titans in the first half-hour had the bizhub Highveld Lions temporarily in disarray before McKenzie and Temba Bavuma steadied the innings. They rotated the strike well and seemed determined to bury anything remotely loose as they completed a 50-run partnership off 90 balls in 69 minutes.
Leg-spinner Von Berg broke the partnership when he took a good return catch off Bavuma as the bizhub Highveld Lions slipped to 151 for four. Bavuma managed 36 off 61 balls, with four fours. McKenzie took over the role of aggressor after Bavuma’s departure and powered his side to safety.
Ethy Mbhalati struck twice in his first spell on Saturday. His first scalp came in the first over of the day as Stephen Cook edged an out-swinger and was caught behind by Mangaliso Mosehle for 35. In his third over, Mbhalati produced a short delivery to the newcomer, Chris Morris, who was moved up the order to accelerate the run-rate. Morris attempted an ambitious pull shot, but played it straight to David Wiese at midwicket, and he was gone for 8.
Dominic Hendricks has been in dominant form for the bizhub Highveld Lions and looked set for another half-century before Rowan Richards produced a beautiful out-swinger in the 24th over to reduce the Lions to 95 for three. He feathered it to Henry Davids, who made no mistake at first slip. Hendricks scored 46, and hit six fours in his 82-ball stay.
Nashua Titans: Henry Davids (capt), Jacques Rudolph, Mangaliso Mosehle, Heino Kuhn, Francois le Clus, David Wiese, Roelof van der Merwe, Shaun von Berg, Ethy Mbhalati, CJ de Villiers, Rowan Richards.
bizhub Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook (capt), Dominic Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile, Brett Pelser, Cliffe Deacon, Chris Morris, Hardus Viljoen, Eddie Leie.