After amassing a mammoth 431 in their first dig thanks to a stunning Rudi Second 152 and a free flowing 83 from Rilee Rossouw, the Knights bowlers ripped through the Warriors top order before Simon Harmer (64*) and Sisanda Magala (44*) dragged their side from 159 for seven to 244 for seven at the close of play.
Marchant de Lange was the destroyer in chief early on and finished the day with figures of 4-66. Along with Duane Olivier (3-61), fresh from his confidence boosting test debut against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers, the two quicks were simply too good for the men from the Eastern Cape with the new ball.
The Warriors’ top run scorer this season, Colin Ackermann was dismissed by a great piece of bowling from Olivier for just 23 in between two ducks from Gihahn Cloete and Lesiba Ngoepe courtesy of de Lange. At 50 for three the away side was in a heap of trouble.
Some resistance was offered by opener Edward Moore who returned to franchise cricket with a gutsy 56. Unfortunately he received little help from the other end as wicket after wicket made the mountain his side were climbing look taller by the over.
Yaseen Vallie (17) and Somila Seyibokwe (11) were De Lange’s third and fourth victims of the day on either side of Moore’s dismissal; caught Mnyanda, bowled Olivier.
The rearguard fightback was initiated by Harmer who once again proved his all-round worth to go along with figures of 4-90 with the ball.
He was ably supported by Sisanda Magala was aggressive throughout his stay. The two lower-order batsmen must have been wondering what all the fuss was about as they picked apart the two Knights back up bowlers in stand worth 85 for the eighth wicket.
Seamer Mbulelo Budaza and finger spinner Akhona Kula could not match the brilliance of their two front liners and went at 5.3 and 4.1 to the over respectively and must have left Nicky Boje fuming that the early pressure did not translate into a cheap skittling of the opposition.
Earlier in the day, the home side picked up where they left off and aggressively targeted the Warriors bowlers, helped largely by a wonderful platform set by Rudi Second.
The Knights batsman went past the 100 mark for the second match in a row after his 125 against the Hollywoodbets Dolphins in Kimberly last time out. This time, he raised his bat for a third time in a brilliant knock of 152. He fell just before the close of play yesterday but the damage was done.
Before him, Rilee Rossouw showed just what South African cricket is going to miss when he heads off to England on a Kolpak deal by bludgeoning 83 from just 96 deliveries before Simon Harmer beat his defences to trap him lbw.
At the tea break today, the Warriors were staring down the barrel at 131 for five and 300 runs behind.
They’re not quite out of the fire yet but two superb contributions down the order gives them a slim hope of achieving parity. Facing up to Olivier and de Lange after a full night’s rest will be a different matter entirely but Harmer and his troops will sleep a little easier themselves after a great last session.