Johannesburg - A career best century from teenager Jonathan Vandiar and a match-winning maiden fifty from Thami Tsolekile earned the Highveld Lions a well deserved victory in an electrifying MTN40 match against the Diamond Eagles at the Wanderers on Wednesday night.
After they lost the toss and were sent in to bat, the Eagles made 299/6 in their 40 overs, but the Lions put up a magnificent fight, making 300/7 to win by three wickets with 12 balls to spare.
Lions openers Neil McKenzie and Vandiar faced 16 deliveries before they earned their first run, but the pair laid a solid foundation with an 89-run stand before McKenzie, who made 42, gifted Rilee Rossouw a catch at silly mid-on off spinner Thandi Tshabalala’s first delivery.
In the next over, seam bowler Ryan McLaren, who bagged 3/67, removed dangermen Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Alviro Petersen within four deliveries and the Lions were once again on the back foot.
Vandiar, however, went on to reach his second career century, and while he received little support from the middle order, he ensured the required run rate was always within reach.
The 19-year-old smashed a career best 108 from 88 balls, with nine fours and five sixes, before he was removed by paceman Dillon du Preez in the 32nd over.
Man of the Match Tsolekile then took control, thumping an unbeaten 65 runs off 34 balls with 12 fours and a six, smashing three successive boundaries off McLaren to bring up the winning runs.
Ryan Bailey and Con de Lange had earlier led a recovery after the Eagles were reduced to 45/4 despite Lions strike bowler Andre Nel walking off with a leg injury midway through the fifth over of the innings.
The pair shared 114 runs for the fifth wicket before De Lange was removed by left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso for 49.
But after De Lange fell, Adrian McLaren joined Bailey as they relentlessly attacked the Lions bowlers.
While Bailey was impressive in compiling his maiden limited overs century, McLaren was outstanding as he wrested the initiative from the hosts.
In the 34th over he smashed Zander de Bruyn for 24 runs, and in the very next over, he and Bailey went rampant.
After two full tosses above waist height - both of which Bailey thumped for boundaries - Cliffie Deacon was removed from the Lions attack, and the punishment was transferred to Robbie Frylinck.
The over was eventually worth 35 runs, with McLaren reaching his half-century off only 21 deliveries, equalling Justin Kemp’s South African domestic record for the fastest one-day fifty.
Bailey and McLaren reached their century partnership off only 44 balls before the latter holed out to Phangiso in the deep. McLaren contributed 75 from 29 balls with eight fours and six sixes.
Bailey remained unbeaten on 105, having faced 87 deliveries in an innings that included 12 boundaries and a six.