A fine maiden T20 century by Zubayr Hamza and an accurate last over from captain Wayne Parnell saw Western Province narrowly win the opening match of the inaugural Cricket SA T20 Knockout competition in Kimberley on Friday.
Bad bowling from both teams, and some excellent ball striking from Hamza, Kyle Verreynne, and then Ryan Rickelton and Shane Dadswell for the Lions, made for an exciting opening match for the 2021/22 season. Pounding his chest, and wearing a big smile to celebrate his hundred, Hamza was the cornerstone of the WP batting effort, that looked like being comfortably enough for them, until their own bowling missed the mark in much the same vein as the Lions’ had earlier.
Hamza blitzed the Lions bowling at the start, taking advantage of a listless attack that looked like it was still stuck in pre-season.
For the 26 year old Hamza, his innings continues the fine form he first found towards the end of last season, after a difficult summer in which he struggled with confidence. He looked more relaxed on Friday, and took calculated risks, although he got a lot of help from a Lions attack, which - with the exception of the veteran Malusi Siboto - struggled with lengths and lines. In addition to that, the Lions’s decision to utilise the part-time spin of Ruan Haasbroek and the medium pace of Shane Dadswell was brutally exposed by the WP batting.
The new Lions T20 skipper, Rickelton will also want to review his decision - after winning the toss and choosing to bowl - to use Haasbroek’s off-spin in the power play. If it was meant as a surprise tactic, it didn’t work, especially with Haasbroek battling to land the ball. Haasbroek also bowled the 18th over in WP’s innings, conceding 19 runs.
Hamza had quickly recognised the Lions’ conundrum and put the part-timer under pressure, and smartly sought out the boundary both on the ground and in the air. His striking down the ground was eye-catching, and he smashed six sixes, along with 10 fours off only 63 balls.
Along the way he shared partnerships of 58 for the first wicket with Tony de Zorzi - who was dropped off the first ball he faced by Rickelton and went on to score 26 - 78 for the second wicket with Kyle Verreynne, who made 35, and then 47 runs for the fourth wicket with skipper Wayner Parnell off only 18 balls.
Siboto claimed 4/30, and was by far the best of the Lions’ bowlers, with Rickelton’s problems deepened with one of his front-line seamers, Lutho Sipamla struggling and conceding 37 runs in three overs.
The Lions were in touch and occasionally ahead of the required scoring rate thanks to Rickelton’s aggressive 53 off 31 balls that included three fours and four sixes. Useful contributions from the big hitting Dadswell (32 off 14 balls and Sisanda Magala (23 off 15) kept the Lions in contention along with some errors from the WP bowlers.
Parnell was left to defend 12 in the last over, and showed the benefit of match time in the winter months - which he’d had with English County, Northamptonshire - successfully landing his yorkers and restricting the Lions to nine runs off the last six balls.
Six Gun Grill WP 197/7 (Zubayr Hamza 106, Kyle Verreynne 35, Malusi Siboto 4/30, Sisanda Magala 1/32)
Imperial Lions 195/6 (Ryan Rickelton 53, Shane Dadswell 32, Mihlali Mpongwana 2/27, Kyle Simmonds 2/37)
WP won by 2 runs