CSA T20 Challenge Qualifier: Warriors vs bizhub Highveld Lions

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The Warriors will host the bizhub Highveld Lions in the qualifier for the 2016 edition of the CSA T20 Challenge. 

I have to say that the Warriors and the bizhub Highveld Lions are the last two teams that I would have expected to make the qualifiers at the start of the season.

That said, both sides have played some exhilarating cricket to reach this point and neither will want to miss out on an opportunity to take on the Multiply Titans in the Final. Will the Warriors deservedly claim a spot in the final or will the Lions ensure that the showpiece event at SuperSport Park Centurion is an all Highveld affair? Let’s check it out:

Warriors vs bizhub Highveld Lions | Tuesday 13 December | St. George’s Park | 18:00

To Win Match
Warriors 7/10 | Tie 35/1 | bizhub Highveld Lions 23/20

The Warriors have been the team of the season thus far for me. The Port Elizabeth-based franchise have exceeded just about everyone’s expectations this season and are the only side who look like they can challenge the Titans.

Much of their success this term has to be attributed to three players: Jon-Jon Smuts, Colin Ingram and Simon Birch. The former has stood head and shoulders above anyone else at the Port Elizabeth franchise. The skipper has amassed a massive 344 runs in just nine games at an average of 49.14. He’s also picked up eight wickets with ball in hand and boasts the best economy rate of any bowler in the competition who have bowled more than 10 overs.

He showed his value in East London a week ago where he was instrumental in chasing down the Hollywoodbets Dolphins’ mammoth 216. Smuts went on to score 107 off just 58 balls while conceding only 23 runs from his four overs – a remarkable effort when you consider the size of the Dolphins’ total.

He is supported by Ingram and Birch who have both stepped up to the plate in what has been the Warrior’s best T20 campaign in recent memory. Ingram has notched up 218 runs and two wickets while Birch has torn through opposition batting line-ups on his way to 17 wickets.

While the above three have been top-class, they’ve been aided by an excellent supporting cast. Sisanda Magala, Basheeru Walters and Colin Ackermann have all contributed in what has been a magnificent season. The men from PE only lost twice and are the only team this season to get a win over the Titans. If they’re on song this Tuesday, they should have very little trouble turning over the Lions.

bizhub Highveld Lions
Geoffrey Toyana’s men finished as the best of the rest after winning what was essentially a “quarter-final” against the BuildNat Cape Cobras on Sunday afternoon. The Highveld side must have been worried at the innings break having only posted a meagre 139 from their 20 overs.

The Cobra’s chase never really gathered momentum. Richard Levi managed an ever belligerent 41 while Hashim Amla (15), Wayne Parnell (10) and Kieron Pollard (18) were the only other players to take their respective scores into double figures. In the end, some excellent bowling from Eddie Leie, who grabbed four wickets in what was the leg-spinner’s best performance of the season, restricted the Cape side to just 117.

If the Highveld franchise are to claim the spoils in the qualifier, they’ll need another massive performance from talismanic opener, Rassie van der Dussen. The Pretoria native has been near unstoppable this season, smashing his way to 324 runs in 10 innings at 32.40.

They’ll also need Hardus Viljoen, Bjorn Fontuin and Eddie Leie to be on song to keep a dangerous Warriors top order quiet. The trio have been excellent this season bagging 42 wickets between them throughout the T20 Challenge.

Verdict: Warriors 7/10
The Warriors have been lightyears ahead of everyone else (aside from the Titans) in this season’s competition. The men from Port Elizabeth have been ultra-consistent this season and should cruise into this weekend’s final against the Titans. 

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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