Captain Jon-Jon Smuts stole the show again as the Warriors claimed a berth in the Momentum One-Day Cup playoff with a 36-run Duckworth-Lewis victory over the Highveld Lions at St George’s Park last night. Rain brought an early end to proceedings, with the Warriors on 123 for four after 32 overs, chasing 155 for victory.
A recalculation when play was called off handed the Warriors the win and a place in Sunday’s playoff against the Knights in Bloemfontein. The winner of that game will play the Titans in the final, in Centurion, next Friday.
Smuts, who had earlier taken four wickets, made a quick-fire 51, sharing a thrilling 93-run partnership with Gihahn Cloete in 19 overs for the first wicket.
He struck eight boundaries which included some blistering on-drives and cover-drives off 57 balls and was eventually out leg before wicket to spinner Wihan Lubbe.
It was Smuts’s 23rd List A half-century, to go with the two hundreds he has already scored this campaign.
Cloete followed three runs later for 41 off 65 balls. He was also trapped in front by Lubbe.
The sudden loss of the openers brought on a quiet period as Colin Ingram and Colin Ackermann tried to consolidate the innings.
But Lubbe struck again, having Ackermann caught at deep square by Bjorn Fortuin for only nine to leave the Warriors 111 for three and still needing 44 for victory.
Yaseen Vallie joined Ingram at the wicket and struggled to rotate the strike.
He had reached two off 16 balls before he hit one almost straight at Lubbe and took off down the pitch. Lubbe took aim at the other end and his direct hit saw Ingram run out for nine.
Vallie (8) and Lesiba Ngoepe (2) prodded and pushed around for what seemed like an age before the rain brought a merciful end to proceedings.
Lubbe finished with three for 25 in eight overs, his best-ever analysis in List A cricket.
It has been a popular choice to bat first after winning the toss at St George’s Park during this campaign and so it proved when the Lions skipper called correctly and opted to take first strike.
But it was not long before Sisanda Magala grabbed a couple of early wickets.
The Warriors seamer first trapped big scalp Reeza Hendricks in front for 10 and then castled Rassie van der Dussen for 14 to have the Lions 30 for two wickets in the eighth over.
The Warriors spinners have been difficult to get away at St George’s this season so it came as no surprise when Smuts, Ackermann and Ingram were called into action quite early in the piece.
They proved almost unplayable again last night as they bowled 24.2 overs between them while conceding only 67 runs and taking six wickets.
Smuts led from the front with his left-arm spinners, claiming a superb return of four for 25 in his 10 overs. Ingram took two wickets while Ackermann went wicket-less but contained well.
The Lions had three contributions in the middle order from Mangi Mosehle (39), Dominic Hendricks (37) and Wihan Lubbe (31), but the remainder of the batsmen failed to come to the party.
The Warriors were outstanding at times in the field, with Kelly Smuts engineering two run-outs.