HARDUS VILJOEN and Eddie Leie shared six wickets as the bizhub Highveld Lions kept their play-off prospects alive with a gripping five-run win over the in-form Warriors in Durban on Sunday.
Rassie van der Dussen also played his hand by blasting exactly 50 (25 balls, 2 fours, 5 sixes) to ensure his side set 158 for victory, before Viljoen (3/16) and Leie (3/28) bundled out the opposition for 152 with the final ball of the match.
Van der Dussen, though, proved key early on after the Lions won the toss and batted in the first game of a double-header at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.
He shared in a first wicket stand of 76 with Reeza Hendricks (25), which came in just 8.1 overs, before the Johannesburg-based side lost their way in the face of a strong Warriors comeback. The Eastern Cape franchise claimed the other nine wickets at a cost of just 81 as the Lions were bowled out for 157 in 19.5 overs.
Colin Ackermann was the pick of the bowlers with 3/23 in four overs, while Colin Ingram was even more miserly with 2/22.
But the Warriors, who were bidding for a fifth straight win that would have taken them top of the log, lost key batsmen in captain Jon-Jon Smuts (1) and Ackermann (0) with just 31 on the board – both falling to the outstanding Viljoen.
Gihahn Cloete (6) was also amongst those that fell early and despite an excellent 47 from top-scorer Ingram, who was taken out by Leie, they found themselves 95/6 in the 14th over with the match appearing over as a contest.
But an excellent 30 from Andrew Birch set up a tense finish. The fast bowler brought the equation down to 19 from 12 balls with three wickets in hand, but Viljoen accounted for Sisanda Magala (10) and Dwaine Pretorius (2/33) delivered an excellent final over when just six were scored for the loss of the final two wickets.
Despite the loss, the Warriors remain second, a point behind the Multiply Titans with a game in hand.
The Lions moved up to third, but can be overhauled by the Hollywoodbets Dolphins, who face the BuildNat Cape Cobras in the second match on Sunday.