DURBAN - The Warriors thumped a listless Dolphins outfit by seven wickets in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Kingsmead on Friday night. The loss will hurt the Dolphins hopes of a home semi-final, as they now look ahead to a tough assignment against the Titans in Maritzburg on Sunday.
The Dolphins served up one of their worst team batting performances, with only Dane Vilas (82) and Khaya Zondo (41) showing any inclination of concentration and graft on a pitch that was a touch on the slow slide.
Vilas walked to the wicket with his side 5 for two but, to his credit, the keeper/batsman played his natural game, oblivious to the madness going on around him. For long periods, he looked like he was batting on a surface completely different to everyone else, as he drove down the ground and through the covers with terrific fluency. Zondo joined him with the side still in dire straits at 44 for three, and the skipper actually outscored his number four during their stand of 75.
As Vilas breezed past 50, off just 52 balls, Zondo looked on his way to a meaningful contribution, too. But, having done the hard yards to get to 41, he reverse-swept Colin Ackermann to short third-man, and Lesiba Ngoepe hung on gratefully.
It was a hammer blow for the Warriors, as it exposed a soft underbelly. The visitors had successfully scouted the pitch as being on the slow side, and used Ackermann as a weapon rather than a defensive ploy. The off-spinner thrived, while the Dolphins self-destructed.
Sibonelo Makhanya came and went for an ugly 3, caught and bowled by Aya Gqamane, before Vilas himself was caught at the wicket off Ackermann. Andile Phehlukwayo raised hopes of a resurgence of personal form and the Dolphins innings, but he fell just a ball after lifting Ackermann over long-on for six. To his credit, Ackermann didn’t retreat into his shell, inducing an edge which was clung onto at slip – a position which showed the measure of the Warriors’ confidence by then.
The end was nigh, and Ackermann finished with fine figures of 4 for 48 from his full ten overs, while Andrew Birch’s new-ball burst saw him end with 3 for 41 in his ten over spell. The Dolphins knew they had to bowl and field exceptionally to have any chance, but they were lacklustre - something they have not been accused of all season.
Imran Tahir returned figures of two for 46, but he dropped two catches on the field, on a night of much frustration all round for the home side. Almost all of the Warriors chipped in with the bat, as Ngoepe (20) and Gihahn Cloete (34) added a steady 31 upfront, to settle any nerves that the Warriors could have suffered with a wobbly start.
Once the openers had gone, and Tahir had got through the defences of the dangerous JJ Smuts, it was left to Yaseen Vallie and Ackermann to apply the finishing touches to a most professional display from the Warriors.
Vallie started very slowly, but he got increasingly cavalier, to finish with a sparkling 79 not out form 102 balls, including two sixes and six fours. At the other end, Ackermann capped off a night to remember by notching 56 not out, from just 57 balls, with a six and seven fours, as the visitors cruised home with five overs to spare.