The Knights mounted a stirring run-chase on a great final day as they tried to chase down 435 and were on target as Gihahn Cloete and Rilee Rossouw blazed hundreds.
After 70 overs, the Knights looked as if they were cruising to victory on 287 for one, needing 148 runs off 36 overs with Cloete and Rossouw in full flight. But JP de Villiers removed both set batsmen and the second new ball then produced a remarkable collapse of six wickets for 18 runs in eight overs in the hands of David Wiese and Marchant de Lange.
A last-wicket stand of 43 between Malusi Siboto and Corne Dry revitalised the Knights before Wiese claimed the final wicket and a famous win at 5.25pm.
“That’s the way cricket should be played. We set up the game with the second new ball very much in mind, leaving us enough overs with it to make an impact, but I never thought it would have to make so much of an impact!
“I’m very excited by the win because it means a helluva lot, it speaks volumes for the culture within the team. We don’t have much to play for in terms of the competition, but we didn’t want to just rock up and play without any care.
“We showed great care and pride in our performance and, if the scoreboard had been switched off, someone watching would never have thought the score was 300 for two. There were a few overs when they really bossed us, but the intensity was amazing and awesome to see,” Walter told The Pretoria News yesterday.
While chasing 435 would normally be one of those flights of fancy that seldom occur in real life, conditions and the brilliance of Cloete and Rossouw had the Knights well on course.
“The pitch was very flat on the fourth day and never offered much of anything. Plus for [leg-spinner] Shaun von Berg to bowl to two left-handers like Cloete and Rossouw was tough. If two batsmen get in those conditions, then chasing six an over is quite easy, it’s very difficult to defend, especially with a short boundary at one end,” Walter explained.
De Lange was like Hagar The Horrible with the new ball, obtaining spiteful, awkward bounce at high pace and Walter said he was delighted the fast bowler was able to make such an impact in his first game for the Titans since November.
“I’m really happy for Marchant’s sake because it’s a reward for a lot of patience and hard work. He really wanted to play earlier, but he had to buy into the process. It’s not just about being physically fit, he had to earn his place. And it’s really exciting that he managed to produce that pace at 4.30pm on the last day of a four-day match,” Walter said.
Cloete received the man of the match award for his maiden century in the Sunfoil Series, but the honour should surely have gone to Wiese, who made important contributions of 45 and 31 not out with the bat and had match figures of six for 93 with the ball. He removed both openers in the Knights first innings, paving the way for their dismissal for just 218 and then claimed four for 18 with the second new ball in the dramatic finale.
“David is really starting to find his feet with the new ball, he’s got seriously good skill with it and can swing it both ways, as well as containing nicely too. His wickets with the new ball and his contributions with the bat at number seven make him a real all-rounder who provides such stability. We can rely on him,” Walter said.
Judging by the spirit shown this weekend, Titans fans can rely on their team going all out to end the season on a high with victory over the Warriors in their final match starting at Centurion on Thursday.
“It’ll be nice to win because three wins will be a 300% improvement on last season. We want to maintain the momentum of what we did this weekend,” Walter said.