Port Elizabeth - Part-time spinner Jon-Jon Smuts took two crucial wickets as the Chevrolet Warriors claimed a semi-final berth after edging the bizhub Highveld Lions by six runs in their Standard Bank Series cricket match at Axxess St George's on Wednesday.
The Warriors were defending a modest 122 runs, but their bowlers made the best of a difficult to pitch to restrict the Lions to 116 for eight.
The victory saw the Warriors move to the top of the standings while the Lions will need to beat the Dolphins in their last fixture in Durban on Sunday to qualify for the play-offs.
The Lions looked set to chase down the target of 123 with relative ease with Gulam Bodi and Zander de Bruyn (26) well set at 78 for three in the 14th over. But when part-time spinner Jon-Jon Smuts dismissed Bodi for 21 and Nicky Boje bowled De Bruyn with a beauty for 26, the panic button seemed to be triggered.
The Lions eventually needed 17 off the final over bowled by Rusty Theron with only two wickets in hand and Alfonso Thomas hit boundaries off the first and third ball. But Theron used all his experience to restrict any further damage.
Boje and Smuts took two wickets apiece as did Makhaya Ntini up front.
Earlier, the Warriors won the toss and elected to bat on what looked like a good pitch. But it soon became evident that the surface was not as true as it appeared to be.
The Warriors batsmen struggled to come to terms with the slowness of the ball off the deck and scoring was difficult.
Captain Davy Jacobs who has battled for runs this season tried to improvise but largely got himself into a tangle. He did manage to scratch together 22 runs off 24 balls including a pulled delivery for six over the mid-wicket boundary and an edge for four.
He was stumped by Thami Tsolekile after charging down the track to left-arm spinner Paul Harris' first delivery of the match.
Fellow opening bat Ashwell Prince (16) became Harris' second victim when chopped a delivery into his wicket.
Mark Boucher was elevated up the order and joined Jon-Jon Smuts at the crease with the Warriors' total on 45 for two in the ninth over.
The pair combined well under the circumstances and rotated the strike well with Smuts looking particularly impressive. They took the Warriors to 83 before Smuts was adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Brad White off the bowling Alfonso Thomas for 26. Television replays suggested Smuts was unlucky to be sent on his way.
Boucher (18) was out four balls later when he was bowled by Zander de Bruyn trying to hoist the seamer down the ground. He did manage a towering six in his 21 deliveries, hitting Harris out of the park and into Park Drive.