Lions edge Day One
Potchefstroom - Half-centuries from Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie and Zander de Bruyn helped the bizhub Highveld Lions reach 332 for seven at stumps on day one of their Sunfoil Series match against the Chevrolet Knights at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on Thursday.
Stephen Cook’s men had earlier been asked to bat first by Chevrolet Knights’ skipper Ryan McLaren, as the overhead cloud-cover promised bowler friendly conditions on the Senwes Park wicket. The decision appeared to be vindicated as the visitors had Cook (8) caught behind in the seventh over off the bowling of Johan van der Wath (19-4-57-3) with the score on 26.
However, the bizhub Highveld Lions wrestled control of the first session courtesy of an extraordinary innings from Proteas Blue Label Telecoms T20 wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, who smashed 18 boundaries and reached 84 off just 86 balls by the time the players stopped for lunch. Temba Bavuma (18) had fallen to Van der Wath just three overs before the interval, but the home side started the second session well placed at 119 for two.
However, the Chevrolet Knights emerged after lunch with more discipline, and De Kock struggled to get going after the break. Malusi Siboto (17-5-69-3) soon rattled the explosive 20-year-old’s woodwork for a well-played 85, but it left the game delicately poised with the bizhub Highveld Lions at 135 for three.
The experienced Neil McKenzie was then joined by fellow veteran Zander de Bruyn, and the pair were tasked with consolidating the good foundation laid by De Kock. The Chevrolet Knights bowlers were able to contain new batsman De Bruyn, but McKenzie was able to alleviate the pressure being piled on his partner as he struck boundaries at regular intervals.
The more sedate De Bruyn brought up the fifty partnership shortly before tea, while McKenzie reached his half-century later that over. The duo went untroubled in the final overs before the break, and the bizhub Highveld Lions ended the second session in a strong position at 196 for three.
Both batsmen set about trying to up the ante after tea, and 24 runs were added to the total before McKenzie perished off the bowling of McLaren (21-3-59-1) for 73. It brought Thami Tsolekile to the crease, and the wicketkeeper seemed to channel his frustration at being dropped from the Castle Lager Test squad in all the right ways as he smashed two fours and the first six of the innings off the very next over from the ineffective Werner Coetsee (14-3-50-0).
Two maiden overs followed, but the pair then accelerated as five boundaries came in the next five overs. De Bruyn brought up his fifty in the 76th over, and the bizhub Highveld Lions reached 286 for four by the time the new ball was due.
It brought the dangerous Van der Wath back into the attack, and, although De Bruyn sent the third ball of the over to the fence, the new ball did the trick as the wily 34-year-old had De Bruyn caught behind off the very next delivery for a well-compiled 63.
At 290 for five, the bizhub Highveld Lions still found themselves handily poised, and it was left to Brett Pelser (10) to help Tsolekile keep the new ball at bay. The run-rate slowed considerably, as Tsolekile, who was on 29 off 42 balls when Pelser arrived at the crease, became more circumspect as the close of play approached.
Pelser was only able to survive 25 balls though, as he fell in the 88th over to the bowling of Siboto with the score on 307. Imran Tahir (14) was next in, and he launched a remarkable assault on Siboto two overs later which saw him smash two fours and a six off the unsuspecting paceman. Siboto exacted his revenge though as he removed Tahir in his next over to claim his third wicket of the day.
Tsolekile, who was joined by Garnett Kruger, saw off the remaining overs in the day’s play to reach 44 not out, and he helped guide the bizhub Highveld Lions to an impressive total 332 of for seven at stumps.
With the batting side having already secured 4.64 bonus points, the Chevrolet Knights will require at least two more wickets in the first six overs of play tomorrow to add to their tally of three bowling points on day one.