JOHANNESBURG – Thami Tsolekile led a spirited fightback by the bizhub Highveld Lions as they reached stumps on day one at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on 275 for seven in their Sunfoil Series clash against the Chevrolet Warriors on Thursday.
Having won the toss and elected to bat first, the bizhub Highveld Lions lost Gulam Bodi (13) and Temba Bavuma (7) early, before in-form skipper Stephen Cook (95) and Neil McKenzie (50) shared 118 for the third wicket to wrest back the initiative.
The Warriors, mainly through Ayabulela Gqamane (three for 42) in the post-lunch session, hit back hard with the ball, and the Lions were in need of more patching up in the final session.
Tsolekile, the former captain, provided the inspiration, as he fashioned out a stylish, unbeaten 64 from 103 balls.
Cook, who drove and cut with his usual efficiency to collect eleven boundaries, looked on his way to a deserved century to continue his fine form in the 2012/13 season, but was bowled by the nagging Gqamane just five shy of three figures.
McKenzie was trapped in front by Gqamane, too, after building a patient half-century off 122 balls. When Zander de Bruyn fell soon after McKenzie, followed by the big wicket of Cook, the Warriors had the momentum.
But Tsolekile had other ideas. The keeper/batsman found a supporter in Brett Pelser, who weighed in with 35 crucial runs in their stand of 99 for the sixth wicket. Together, they blunted out any hopes the visitors had of bowling out the Lions before the close, and Tsolekile will resume with Imran Tahir (0).
For the visitors, who put a tough Momentum One-Day Cup run behind them with a gritty display in the field, Andrew Birch also took three wickets, while Basheer Walters struck with the new ball to remove the dangerous Bodi early on.
With the match finely balanced, Friday’s first hour will be crucial for both sides, with Tsolekile eyeing a vital century, and the Warriors three wickets away from getting their turn at the crease.
Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook (c), Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile (wk), Eddie Leie, Garnett Kruger, Imran Tahir, Garnett Kruger, Brett Pelser.
Warriors: Davy Jacobs (wk/c), Michael Price, Ashwell Prince, JJ Smuts, Gurshwin Rabie, Simon Harmer, Andrew Birch, Basheer Walters, Arno Jacobs, Ayabulela Gqamane, Christiaan Jonker.