Automatic final berth still within their grasp
A thrilling week lies in wait for the Warriors as they hit the home straight in their pursuit of Momentum One-Day Cup cricket glory. The in-form Eastern Cape franchise completes its round-robin programme with two matches over the next four days.
They are in Benoni tomorrow (10am) to face a dangerous Titans team and then travel back to Port Elizabeth to face the Lions at St George’s Park on Thursday (2pm).
They could get away with winning only one of those fixtures and still make it through to the playoff game, but with an automatic final berth also still within their grasp, they will want to win both and see what happens to the log-leading Dolphins in their last game.
If the Warriors make either the playoff or the final, the venue will be St George’s Park as per a recent decision to play knockout matches at the main venues of each franchise.
Previously, the Warriors used to rotate these games between Port Elizabeth and East London.
The Warriors have registered back-to-back wins in the competition thanks mainly to some heroic batting from their captain, Jon-Jon Smuts.
They have now played eight matches across all formats in Port Elizabeth this season and have won seven of them, with the remaining match being abandoned due to rain.
Five of those seven wins have come in white ball cricket, a testament to just how great a fortress St George’s Park has become for them.
In December, Malibongwe Maketa’s team reached the final of the CSA T20 Challenge only to be pipped by the Titans in Centurion.
This time around, the Warriors will be aiming to go one better and to do that they will bank on Smuts continuing his good form.
The skipper has clubbed backto-back centuries for his team – the first a career-best 173 not out against the Cobras and the next an equally telling effort of 132 in the Warriors’ innings of 284 on Friday.
He has now scored 453 runs at an average of 75.5 at almost a run a ball at the top of the order.
He has also gained valuable assistance from Gihahn Cloete, Colin Ackermann and Colin Ingram.
Ackermann has also played a vital role with his offspinners and was the pick of the bowlers on Friday.
Andrew Birch took the valuable wicket of David Miller on Friday and then bowled a superb final over with the Knights needing 11 runs to win, eventually only conceding four.
“It was probably a bit closer than what we would have liked having them four down early on, but it is probably just what we needed,” Smuts said.
“We haven’t had a close game that we needed to win so it was good. The character the bowlers showed in the last 10 overs was unreal and was great to see.” Smuts said there was always room for improvement.
“We are always going to be harsh on ourselves. We always want to try and improve our fielding.”