VKB Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn said on Saturday that his team’s Sunfoil Series triumph was all about a unit playing for a higher purpose.
The Knights wrapped up their first four-day title since 2007/8 on the third day of the final round of fixtures, their innings-and-121-runs win over the bizhub Highveld Lions at the BidVest Wanderers Stadium giving them an insurmountable lead at the top of the table.
Having reached a tremendous 443 in their first innings, the Knights then bundled the Lions out for just 87 on the second day to set up their victory. The Lions were 193 for five in their follow-on innings when play resumed on Saturday morning, and the Knights needed just 100 minutes to dismiss the home side for 235.
Duanne Olivier was once again the leading wicket-taker, with four for 59 in 20 overs, taking his season’s tally to a phenomenal 52 wickets in eight matches at an average of just 18.13. As has been the case throughout the season, South Africa’s newest Test cricketer was superbly supported by Marchant de Lange (22.1-5-75-3) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (20-5-41-3).
“This team plays for the man upstairs and his purpose for us, and that’s why we have been blessed. In cricket, you cannot control the outcomes, but we have managed to get a unit that believes we are playing for a bigger purpose. We’ve set high standards and, although we didn’t do well in the T20, we backed ourselves in this competition,” De Bruyn said after winning the most prestigious domestic title in his first season as captain, for the franchise he joined from the Titans, who were the defending champions and closest challengers.
“It’s been a rollercoaster season, but I believe we truly deserve to win the trophy. We’ve lost the least games – only two – and we bowled as a unit. Duanne took over 50 wickets and Marchant had 34, and then you add in Shadley’s 29 and Mbulelo Budaza also chipped in. The bowling was relentless from both sides and when the attack was switched on, they were really able to dominate all opposition batting line-ups.
“The batsmen also put the runs on the board for the bowlers to bowl at, Rudi Second worked on technical aspects of his game, he’s a wicketkeeper but as a batsman he’s dominated at four or five, while someone like Pite van Biljon only played four matches but played a couple of brilliant innings, like his hundred here. Luthando Mnyanda gave us our best starts all season in the last two games and Diego Rosier came in and scored runs as well,” De Bruyn said.
The 24-year-old did not mention his own considerable contribution to the triumph, De Bruyn scoring 751 runs at an average of 57.76. Second was second in the Knights averages with 684 runs at 52.61.
Knights coach Nicky Boje’ said winning the Sunfoil Series was up there with the best moments of his long and decorated career in cricket.
“It’s definitely right up there because we see the four-day tournament as the main competition and it got to a tough stage for us after we were outplayed in Paarl. But we managed to produce an almost-perfect performance in this ‘final’ after all the sides were still in the mix for the trophy. We played good cricket and set ourselves high standards,” Boje’ said.
The former international spinner is in his first season as the full-time Knights coach, making the fledgling Boje’/De Bruyn partnership and achievement even more impressive.
“As a new coach, you’ve got to get the players to trust what you are trying to do and I had to make a couple of changes and bring a couple of new guys in. But Theunis as captain, Marchant and Duanne with the new ball and David Miller bringing his international experience have all been massive,” Boje said.
It’s been more than six years since the Knights won a trophy, but Boje’ is adamant this team are still in the early stages of their journey.
“The Knights were in a building phase and didn’t win trophies for the last couple of years, but it’s a process. We want to leave a legacy for young guys coming in so they know how to be a Knight. We are still busy getting everything in place and we have to make sure we keep building. Today was just the first step,” Boje’ said.
It may sound silly, but in a tournament that was defined by small margins, De Bruyn described a last-wicket stand of just 10 between Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli during last weekend’s heavy defeat at the hands of the Cape Cobras as being crucial to their title success.
“In Paarl, we may have lost badly but the two spinners at the end of the first innings took us from 143 for nine to 153 to get us one batting point [150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point]. That extra point turned out to be a massive moment because it meant this week we only needed 120 more runs than the Titans rather than 170 more. It just allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said.