Cape Town - The Warriors and Highveld Lions head into their penultimate Sunfoil Series clash starting on Thursday at Buffalo Park in East London knowing that only victory will suffice.
The two sides are placed fourth and last respectively, but both are still well in contention for the title in what is developing into one of the closest four-day climaxes in history.
The Knights lead the standings heading into round nine, but their 87.18 points is only around 15 more than the Warriors and 20 ahead of the Lions.
“We have to make sure we get two wins if we want to give ourselves a chance,” home coach Malibongwe Maketa said. “That’s our main focus. We’ve prepared well for the game, hopefully the weather is kind and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Warriors were beaten by the Knights last week and Maketa conceded they were ‘outplayed’ in Bloemfontein.
However, he says they are determined to bounce back in a match he expects to go down to the wire. “The Lions have always been a good team with some very experienced cricketers,” he added. “Almost every game we’ve played against them in my time has gone the four days, it’s always hard fought when we come up against them and I don’t think it’s going to be any different here in East London.”
The Warriors are bolstered by the return of Colin Ingram for the penultimate game of the season.
The Lions, meanwhile, have a host of reinforcements to count on. Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Mangaliso Mosehle are all back after featuring for the Proteas in their recent Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka.
But Eddie Leie and Hardus Viljoen remain on the sidelines due to injury.
Geoffrey Toyana’s side had a bye last weekend and were overtaken by the Cape Cobras in that time.
“It’s exciting times for all the teams with the competition being so tight,” the Lions coach said. “We know we have to win two games to have a chance.
“We’re 20 points behind the Knights and we’re playing the Knights in our last game as well, so it’s a big one and the boys are looking forward to it.”
Toyana feels that all the teams will also be walking a tightrope in these remaining two games. “Mistakes are going to be extremely costly from now on, not just for us but for any of the teams,” he added. “It’s key that we keep playing positive cricket and we just make sure we have a good start again.
“The big concern for me has been our batting, but hopefully we can get that right.”