Little went right for the bizhub Highveld Lions as they were hammered by seven wickets with 12 overs to spare by the Chevrolet Knights in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at the Wanderers on Friday night.
Set a mediocre 228 for victory, the Knights had little trouble registering a crucial bonus-point win, reaching 229 for three in 38 overs.
As disciplined and probing as they were with the ball in sunlight, the Knights were ruthless with the bat under floodlights, with Gerhardt Abrahams, Rudi Second and Pite van Biljon all scoring bright half-centuries.
Van Biljon was there at the end with 51 not out off 58 balls, alongside Obus Pienaar (25*), their unbeaten 53-run stand providing the finishing touches to a tremendous victory.
Having produced a terrible batting display in meandering to 227 for nine in their 50 overs, the Lions began awfully with the ball.
Hardus Viljoen, on his return from long-term injury, was here, there and everywhere. He bowled four wides in the first over, which went for 12 runs, and added three more wides and a couple of no-balls in his second.
Pumelela Matshikwe also struggled, conceding 31 runs in his opening spell of four overs, and the Knights were quickly away.
Viljoen managed to get one ball on target in his opening burst, Lefa Mosena edging to second slip to be caught for six, but there was precious little for the Lions to cheer about for the next 17 overs as Abrahams and Second added 107 off 108 balls.
Abrahams, who was brought into the side to replace SA A batsman Reeza Hendricks, was dashing and able to put away the bad delivery as he raced to 62 off 54 balls with 10 fours, before he was bowled by wrist-spinner Eddie Leie attempting a big slog-sweep.
There was no respite for the Lions, however, as Second and Van Biljon continued scoring freely, another 39 runs being added before Second was also bowled by Leie, although he was deceived by a yorker. The wicketkeeper scored a fine 55 off 78 balls, with seven fours.
The scoring slowed down during the partnership between Van Biljon and Pienaar, but the Knights had no reason to rush with the bonus point always well in their sights.
Viljoen returned and was struck for successive boundaries by Van Biljon to end the game, conceding 60 runs in his seven overs, to perhaps suggest he was rushed back into action too early.
Leie tried enthusiastically to get the Lions back in the game, taking two for 48 in nine overs, while Kagiso Rabada was tidy, conceding just 37 runs in his nine overs.
The five points for the win lifts the Knights back into contention on 13 points in fifth place, now just two behind the Lions.
The Highveld Lions never got out of first gear before falling away badly in the middle overs, and, on the same pitch on which South Africa scored billions of runs just two weeks ago, they could never get close to a run-a-ball, despite a solid platform laid by the top three.
The Knights won the toss and gave the Lions batsmen first use of a bare, bouncy pitch and openers Stephen Cook and Rassie van der Dussen gave the home side an ideal start by bringing up their fifty partnership off 66 balls.
A shifting of gears was required but Cook (34 off 39, 5×4) tried to pull a delivery from fast bowler Quinton Friend and, cramped for time and space, he could only dolly a simple catch to midwicket.
Alviro Petersen came in and looked top-class as he cruised to 39 off 51 balls, with five fours, before paceman Dillon du Preez held on to a sharp return catch.
The Lions were still in a strong position on 124 for two after 28 overs, but a dramatic middle-order collapse then ensued as they slumped to 162 for seven in the 41st over.
Van der Dussen’s 57 off 90 balls was a passable effort in terms of building a foundation, but he needed to go on and anchor the innings. Instead he became one of three wickets to fall in four deliveries as he drove outside off stump and was caught behind off Shadley van Schalkwyk.
Temba Bavuma (3), caught trying to pull Du Preez, Neil McKenzie (15), top-edging a sweep off Werner Coetsee, and Dwaine Pretorius, caught behind for a duck off Van Schalkwyk as he wafted outside off stump, all made little impression.
Viljoen was brilliantly caught by a diving Michael Erlank in the covers for 10 off Du Preez.
Thami Tsolekile (34) and Rabada (22) did at least add 49 off 45 balls for the eighth wicket to give the Lions something to bowl at, but the probing Knights bowlers remained in control throughout the innings.
Du Preez was outstanding with four for 34 in 10 overs – yes, he even bowled yorkers regularly at the death – while Van Schalkwyk (10-2-43-2) and Friend (10-1-45-1) could also be happy with their contributions.