Andrew Birch produced the goods with bat and ball as the Chevrolet Warriors claimed their second Sunfoil Series win in as many matches by beating the Cape Cobras by a narrow 16 runs in a tense afternoon at St George’s Park yesterday.
After top-scoring with 88 in a second innings of 317, Birch removed four Cobras’ batsmen as the visitors were out for 305.
What should have been a comfortable win for the home side was made tougher as Justin Kemp (34 not out) and Dane Paterson (42) put on 68 for the 10th wicket to leave the visitors just short of what would have been an incredible victory.
But Jon-Jon Smuts claimed Paterson’s wicket thanks to a sharp catch at first slip by Ryan Bailey to leave the Warriors celebrating their second win of the series.
The match was anyone’s game with one session remaining late yesterday.
Chasing 322, the Cobras lost their top four batsmen for only 53 runs. Birch took two of those and Basheer Walters and Sisanda Magala shared the other two.
At that stage it seemed as if the Cobras were ready to fold but a fighting fifth-wicket partnership of 155 between Dane Vilas and Sybrandt Engelbrecht saw the Cobras right back into the game. In fact, when the teams went to tea, the Cobras were 170 for four wickets needing 143 runs to win in 37 overs with Vilas and Engelbrecht well set.
But Birch grabbed the crucial breakthrough by dismissing Vilas for 84 with a fine, one-handed caught and bowled.
In his next over, he bowled Engelbrecht to put the Warriors on the front foot.
Simon Harmer claimed three wickets of his own but it was left to Smuts to deliver the final rites.
Earlier, the Warriors extended their overnight lead from 258 to 321 for the loss of their remaining four wickets. That was due mainly to a stunning counter-attack by Birch which started on Saturday.
He arrived at the crease on day three with the Warriors teetering on 176 for six, just 180 run ahead and in danger of setting a relatively meagre total.
Birch combined with skipper Colin Ingram to post 100 for the seventh wicket.
He was brutal with anything pitched up and struck 13 fours and a six in an 83-ball stay at the crease.
He was the second last Warriors batsman to fall and he did so for 88, agonisingly close of what would have been his maiden first-class century.
His effort, however, did better his previous best of 59 scored against the Knights, in Kimberley, in the 20011-12 season.
Ingram scored 56 off 110 deliveries before he became one of fast bowler Paterson’s four victims.
The win lifts the Warriors to third position on the log while the Cobras remain rooted the bottom.
– Alvin Reeves