Newly promoted AET Tuskers stunned defending champions, the DP Lions, with a dominant nine-wicket victory on Thursday to send shock waves to all teams competing in Division One.
The domestic One Day Cup progressed to its third fixture on Thursday when the Tuskers hosted Johannesburg-based Lions at the Pietermaritzburg Oval.
Going into the match, the Lions were expected to breeze past the Tuskers seeing that they have more accomplished names on their squad including Proteas spinner Bjorn Fortuin.
To everyone’s surprise, the newly promoted Tuskers dominated the Lions and used their homeground advantage to perfection.
From the toss, the Tuskers knew what to do, and upon opting to field first, their decision proved to be fruitful in almost no time.
Left-arm fast bowler Mbulelo Budaza proved to possess the right skills for the wicket that was on offer at the Pietermaritzburg Oval.
The wicket was up-and-down, and when Ryan Rickelton got struck in the hand by a delivery that uncharacteristically took off a full-length, it was clear that batters could not trust the bounce of the wicket.
On an up-and-down wicket, a tall fast bowler is just what you need as a fielding captain and Budaza proved this through his first spell when he removed Joshua Richards (3 off 9) and captain Dominic Hendricks (0 off 1) in two consecutive balls.
Coming in as first and second change bowlers, Keith Dudgeon (2/21) and Thando Ntini (2/24) also took full advantage of the conditions on offer.
Ntini, in his first over, bowled Zubayr Hamza (7 off 14) with a full-length inswinger that kept low, before Mitchell van Buuren got run-out by a brilliant piece of fielding from Kagiso Rapulana.
Ntini also accounted for Rickelton (31 off 50) who stuck around for a while, hit a couple of boundaries and provided some resistance to the home team, while Dudgeon took care of lower-order batters in Delano Potgieter (9 off 19) and Bjorn Fortuin (13 off 28).
Budaza came back for a second spell where he wrapped up the tail and helped bowl the Lions out for 89 runs, a score-line no one would have predicted going into the game.
In reply, the Tuskers had the duo of Rapulana (29* off 65) and Dilivio Ridgaard (29 off 38) opening the batting.
Rapulana was batting against his old-team for the first time since joining the Tuskers over the winter, and the batter was up for the task on Wednesday afternoon.
Rapulana’s unbeaten 29 off 65, Ridgaard’s aesthetically pleasing 29 off 38, together with Tiaan Koekermoer’s unbeaten 22 off 34 took the hosts to 90/1, beating the Lions by nine wickets.
Before the season started, Tuskers head coach Grant Morgan warned of the ‘wounded warriors’ in his team, players with a point to prove at the highest level.
He was talking about new recruits Budaza, Pite van Biljon and Rapulana to name a few, and yesterday, two of them won the game for the Tuskers.
“We can’t glorify the next level to an extent that we start to feel intimidated but we have to respect it,” Morgan told Independent Media at last month’s domestic cricket season launch.
“Someone who has been hurt and maybe has got a point to prove can be very dangerous. So, we’ve got a couple of wounded warriors here that want to show people what they are about.”
The One Day Cup will continue on Friday when the Dolphins host the North West Dragons at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.
Lions 89 al out (Rickelton 31, Siboto 13, Budaza 4/ 18, Dudgeon 2/21)
Tuskers 90/1 (Rapulana 29*, Ridgaard 29, Moreki 1/29, Ndwandwa 0/12)
Tuskers won by 9 wickets