Theunis de Bruyn and David Miller rained on the Warriors’ parade as the Knights won the opening game of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge by eight wickets at St George’s Park last night.
Chasing 154 for victory, the Warriors struck a couple of early blows to have the visitors 15 for two in the fourth over.
But captain De Bruyn (78 not out) and Miller (62 not out) took their time and eventually launched the attack to all parts of the ground as the team eased home with 12 deliveries to spare. They shared a franchise record, unbeaten stand of 142 for the third wicket.
In what was scripted to be a Warriors celebration of their new floodlights and scoreboard at the ground, De Bruyn and Miller took centre stage to put a damper on their proceedings.
Coming off his recent 36-ball hundred against Bangladesh, Miller was always going to be a danger man. He survived a very good leg-beforewicket shout off the very first ball he faced bowled by Andrew Birch.
It looked a decision that could have gone either way, but Miller got the rub of the green and promptly smacked the next ball through the covers for four. He then flat-batted a free hit off Aya Gqamane for six and that appeared to click him into high gear.
At the other end, and with the Knights eventually requiring 75 balls off 42 deliveries, De Bruyn took 22 off a Ackermann over to ease the pressure on the chase. De Bruyn’s innings came off only 48 balls with six sixes and three fours while Miller was slightly slower taking 47 deliveries (7×4, 3×6).
The Knights won the toss and De Bruyn asked the Warriors to take first strike – a decision captains rarely took at St George’s Park with the old floodlights in place.
The Warriors innings took a strange path filled with ups and downs. Jon-Jon Smuts and Gihahn Cloete tore into the Knights opening pair of Ryan McClaren and Marchant de Lange, smashing 39 off the opening four overs.
Both fast bowlers were hauled off after two overs each and it proved an intuitivemove. Both of their replacements, seamer Shadley van Schalkwyk and spinner Aubrey Swanepoel, struck in their first overs.
Cloete was first to leave the scene as Van Schalkwyk had him caught in the deep for 19 with his first delivery. Swanepoel then got the big fish Smuts caught by Van Schalkwyk at a short mid-wicket for 18.
The good start was even further undone when Colin Ingram ran himself out without any addition to the total and the Warriors were 46 for three in the seventh over. More drama was to follow in the shape of another soft dismissal when Colin Ackermann was caught off Van Schalkwyk, who then took his third wicket in bowling Jerry Nqolo.
The Warriors had spun out of control, having lost five wickets for 30 runs, and needed some stability which they found in a sixth partnership of 38 for the sixth wicket between Christiaan Jonker and Solo Nqweni. As more wickets tumbled after that for the Warriors to be at 113 for eight in 17 overs, Jonker remained measured.
Legspinner Eddie Leie bowled the next over and Jonker blasted him for 21 runs, including two sixes and two fours. The burst propelled the Warriors to a total their bowlers would at least have a decent chance of defending.