It was a dramatic opening day to the Sunfoil Series match at Axxess St George's on Thursday as the bizhub Highveld Lions faltered in their bid to close the gap on the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras.
They were dismissed by the Chevrolet Warriors for a paltry 157 and, although they had taken three wickets themselves by the close, their title hopes have all but evaporated. A gritty innings from Neil McKenzie prevented even further blushes while Andrew Birch produced some decisive bowling.
By the close, the Chevrolet Warriors had reached 64 for the loss of three wickets and trail the bizhub Highveld Lions by 93 runs.
Stephen Cook won the toss and made first use of a typical Port Elizabeth batting strip. The visitors made a dreadful start, losing both openers to Birch in the first half-hour for just six runs. McKenzie and Alviro Petersen slowly dug themselves out of the hole only for Aya Gqamane to strike in his first over. The morning session produced just 51 runs and three wickets.
The pace picked up ever so slightly after lunch. McKenzie got the session off to a bright start before being bowled by Simon Harmer, and Gqamane again struck in the first over of a new spell to remove Temba Bavuma. Tea was taken with the score on 121, and Thami Tsolekile and Zander de Bruyn pushed the total along after the break. Both were prepared to take on Harmer with the reverse sweep.
At 141 for five, there was a hope of getting to a respectable total, but the dismissal of Tsolekile prompted a disastrous collapse. Tsolekile was clearly unhappy with the lbw decision against him. Cliffe Deacon has shored up the lower order batting repeatedly, but he departed in the next over, moving across his stumps only to be trapped in front by Birch, who had De Bruyn caught behind in his next over.
Chris Morris went heaving at Wayne Parnell and, when Gqamane struck with the first ball of a new spell, five wickets had fallen for 16 to leave the Lions with just 1.14 batting bonus points.
Birch bowled beautifully, finding movement in the air and off the seam all day. He finished with four for 30 in sixteen overs. Gurshwin Rabie and Wayne Parnell also bowled well with little reward, while Gqamane had another good day with three for 26. Harmer could also be pleased with his efforts, taking two for 41 in his 16 overs.
Davy Jacobs played freely from the start, striking boundaries all around the ground. Paradoxically, he had a close shave when he padded up. Michael Price also picked up the pace, hitting Morris to the boundary four times in the space of seven balls. Morris persevered, and had Price edging a drive to McKenzie at first slip. De Bruyn then chipped in, having Arno Jacobs caught behind with his first ball.
Soon afterwards namesake Davy was also gone, bowled through the gate. The Warriors shirked the use of a night watchman, and Ashwell Prince will resume with Colin Ingram in the morning.
Bonus points to date: Warriors 4, Lions 2.14.