Knights opened the Ram Slam T20 Challenge with a straightforward win, chasing 154 against Warriors in Port Elizabeth. Warriors were left to rue their mid-innings collapse in which they lost five wickets for 30 runs between the 5th and 11th over, caused largely by pace off the ball from Shadley van Schalkwyk. Christiaan Jonker’s 61 off 38 balls kept them in the hunt but the quality of international batsmen in the Knights side meant the total, though slightly above par for the venue, was never enough. Theunis de Bruyn’s 78 off 48 balls and David Miller’s 62 off 47 balls took Knights home with two overs to spare.
Rain affected double-header Sunday but Dolphins made a strong statement against Cape Cobras, putting on 231 for 2. Sarel Erwee became the first centurion of the competition with 103 off 58 balls while Khaya Zondo contributed 67 off 34 balls. Vernon Philander conceded 49 runs, while Dane Paterson went for 44 runs in their respective four-over quota. In response, Cobras’ superstars could not withstand the pressure. Richard Levi nicked off against Robbie Frylinck, Temba Bavuma scooped a catch to point off Keshav Maharaj and JP Duminy was run-out. Hashim Amla was on 52 not out when lightning stopped the chase after 8.3 overs. Cobras finished on 108 for 3 in 10 overs, 15 short on the DLS method.
The lightning eventually turned into a storm and reduced the match between Lions and Titans to 15 overs-a-side. Albie Morkel took 3 for 12 to keep Lions to 127 for 6, with Reeza Hendricks’ 67 off 42 the only score over 20. Then, Morkel scored 41 off 16 balls and shared an 85-run third-wicket partnership with AB de Villiers, who blitzed a 19-ball 50, to give Titans victory with 22 balls left in their innings.
De Villiers takes the honours for the most impressive performance by a national player, not least for the back-to-back sixes he hit off Kagiso Rabada to end Titans’ innings. He did not, however, score as many runs as either de Bruyn or Miller. De Bruyn’s contribution may be particularly noteworthy, considering his struggle to find a spot in the Test team. This innings showed he could start making a case for consideration in shorter formats.
Among the bowlers, Maharaj, who opened the bowling for Dolphins and took 1 for 23 in three overs, would have caught the national selectors’ eyes. Maharaj started ahead of Imran Tahir, and showed the same control he has become known for in Tests.
There will be concern over Duminy’s start as Cobras captain. He bowled three overs and cost his side 40 runs, and was then run-out for 1, at a time when Cobras desperately needed a partnership.
Look no further than Erwee for a domestic player who has made an impact in the opening week. Erwee, a 28-year-old opening batsmen from Pietermaritzburg, has had a stunning summer so far. He was the leading run-scorer in the Africa T20 Cup for champions Kwa-Zulu Natal Inland.
He also scored two hundreds for the Dolphins in the first-class competition, but was forced to miss two of the remaining three matches. Erwee could not play mid-way through the first half because he went to France for the wedding of England’s Jason Roy, a friend from his club cricket days in the UK, and then could not play the final round before the break because he was part of South Africa’s victorious Hong Kong Sixes squad.
Beyond the boundary
Both venues, St George’s Park and SuperSport Park, saw fairly good crowds attend the opening week, with the Port Elizabeth band in full voice and a Sunday afternoon crowd braving the Highveld storms to braai on Centurion’s grass embankments.
Three members of the crowd took one-handed catches, in a competition for a share of R2 million (US$139,290) but only two of them are eligible to win. The third is an employee of the Gauteng Cricket Board, one-half of the Lions franchise, and so had to be disqualified.