The final session of Friday's second day of the Sunfoil Series match at Axxess St. George’s turned the match on its head. After both teams had struggled to score for the first five sessions, an aggressive partnership between Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie rocketed the bizhub Highveld Lions into a 248-run lead over the Chevrolet Warriors in what has now come down to a shoot-out for second place in the competition.
Petersen went to his 30th First-Class century in style, while McKenzie will return to the crease tomorrow on 84, well within sight of his 48th. Earlier, the bizhub Highveld Lions bowlers combined well to earn their team a narrow first innings lead despite being shot out for a lowly 157 on the opening day.
The Chevrolet Warriors resumed on 64 for three, but could only add 59 in the morning session while losing another four wickets. Hardus Viljoen struck two early blows, but Ashwell Prince batted doggedly. He scored just three runs in the first hour of play, but opened up a bit as lunch approached.
Imran Tahir, only introduced into the attack shortly before lunch, had Prince stumped just after lunch for 41, and the tail folded meekly. The leg-spinner finished with two wickets as did Chris Morris, while Viljoen took three for 27 in 17.1 overs and Zander de Bruyn also had a respectable return of three for 28. That left the bizhub Highveld Lions with a lead of 22 as the Chevrolet Warriors failed to record a single batting bonus point.
Stephen Cook failed again but Quinton de Kock batted attractively for 27 before being bowled by a ball that kept low and went under the bat as he attempted the pull shot. Petersen and McKenzie tamed the demons in the pitch and had taken the total to 75 by tea.
It was a different game after the break. After the scoring rate had been at just 2.5 to the over throughout the match, the pair put on 151 in the session at 3.8 to the over. Petersen signalled his intent to get on with matters early on. Playing with the straightest of bats, he plundered three boundaries as Wayne Parnell bowled the opening over of the session. Petersen moved on briskly, reaching his 50 off just 60 balls with eight fours. McKenzie was almost as quick, achieving the landmark from 77 balls, also with eight boundaries.
While batting continued to look a much easier proposition, Petersen did slow down somewhat towards the end of the day. He needed a further 100 balls to complete his century, adding just two to his boundary count. By the close, he had gone on to 105 off 167 balls with eleven fours. McKenzie was on 84 off 139 balls, also with eleven boundaries.
Their partnership is already worth 186 in 47 overs, at a handsome run rate of 3.9. Apart from the odd inside edge, the only scare for the bizhub Highveld Lions was late in the day when McKenzie, on 75, offered a difficult chance to Colin Ingram off the bowling of Simon Harmer.
Birch and Parnell have each taken one for 35. Aya Gqamane had a disappointing afternoon, being punished for 56 runs in ten overs.
With two days to go, the bizhub Highveld Lions have enough time to set the Chevrolet Warriors a stiff target, while leaving themselves enough time to bowl the hosts out a second time. The Chevrolet Warriors will be hoping that the pitch remains as benign as it appeared in this session.
Final bonus points: bizhub Highveld Lions 5.14, Chevrolet Warriors 4.