Mitchell van Buuren could have followed in the footsteps of his older cousin Graeme and become an emigrant to the UK, but the 24-year-old batsman has decided to hold out in South Africa. And on Friday, he saved the Central Gauteng Lions in their crucial final round of the 4-day Domestic Series against the Northerns Titans in Centurion.
Long-time frontrunners in the four-day league, the Lions are trying to hold off strong late challenges from both Northerns and Eastern Province Warriors, and they ran into trouble early on in SuperSport Park when they dropped to 79/4.
That was when Van Buuren got to the heart of the matter and showed impressive discipline and composure even as the Lions slid further into the mire on 118/6. Sisanda Magala then joined him and Proteas’ hefty white-ball player was able to show his worth with the bat as he fought hard for nearly two and a half hours, playing some nice strokes in his 61 and adding a vital 130 for the seventh wicket with Van Buuren.
With off-spinner Simon Harmer (31-7-84-3) packing the tail, the Lions were knocked out on a stump for 270, with Van Buuren going undefeated on a very responsible 103, including 10 fours and three sixes.
Seamer Aya Gqamane was the favorite of the Northerns bowlers, taking 3/45 in 16 overs, his victims being the star trio of Josh Richards (33), Ryan Rickelton (24) and Magala. Lizaad Williams was also smooth, taking 2/42 in 22 overs.
The Warriors, meanwhile, had their game against the Free State Knights in Bloemfontein firmly in hand until the hosts were lifted to an acceptable 198/7 by Patrick Botha.
The EP pacers, Tiaan van Vuuren (14-4-32-3), Akhona Mnyaka (12-1-49-2) and Mthiwekhaya Nabe (11-1-35-2) quickly ripped through the Ridders top order, with only Raynard van Tonder (34) shows a lot of resistance.
At 39/4, Botha shared 54 consecutive partnerships with Van Tonder and 72 with Migael Pretorious (17). It improved the mood in a knight camp that is missing a number of key players and has been shaken up by the resignation of Allan Donald as coach. The Proteas great takes on the role of Bangladesh bowling coach.
Scores in short for other games
Western Province 332/4 (Jonathan Bird 128, Yaseen Vallie 44, Gavin Kaplan 73, Daniel Smith 46*; Delano Potgieter 2/56) v North West†
KZN Dolphins 272/5 (Grant Roelofsen 49, Keegan Petersen 115*, Andile Phehluwayo 69*; Shaun von Berg 3/81) v Boland Rocks†