Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn said on Saturday that his team’s Sunfoil Series triumph was all about playing as a collective for a higher purpose.
The Central franchise wrapped up their first four-day title since 2007/08 on the third day of the final round of fixtures, their innings-and-121-runs win over the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers giving them an insurmountable lead at the top of the table.
Having reached 443 in their first innings, the Knights then bundled the Lions out for just 87 on the second day to set up their victory.
The Lions were 193 for five in their follow-on innings when play resumed on Saturday morning, and the Knights needed just 100 minutes to dismiss the home side for 235.
Duanne Olivier was once again the leading wicket-taker, with four for 59 in 20 overs, taking his season’s tally to a phenomenal 52 wickets in eight matches at an average of just 18.13.
As has been the case throughout the season, South Africa’s newest Test cricketer was superbly supported by Marchant de Lange (3/75) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (3/41).
“In cricket, you can’t control the outcomes, but we have managed to gel into a unit that believes we are playing for a bigger purpose. We’ve set high standards and, although we didn’t do well in the T20, we backed ourselves in this competition,” De Bruyn said after winning the most prestigious domestic title in his first season as captain for his new team.
De Bruyn moved to Bloemfontein from the Titans, last season’s champions.
“It’s been a rollercoaster season, but I believe we truly deserve to win the trophy. We’ve lost the least games – only two – and we bowled as a unit,” he said.
“Duanne took over 50 wickets and Marchant had 34, and then you add in Shadley’s 29 and Mbulelo Budaza also chipped in. The bowling was relentless from both end of the pitch and when the attack was switched on, they were really able to dominate all opposition.
“The batsmen also put the runs on the board for the bowlers to bowl at, Rudi Second worked on technical aspects of his game, he’s a wicketkeeper but as a batsman he’s dominated at four or five.
“Someone like Pite van Biljon only played four matches but played a couple of brilliant innings, like his hundred here. Luthando Mnyanda gave us our best starts all season in the last two games and Diego Rosier came in and scored runs as well.”
The 24-year-old did not mention his own considerable contribution to the triumph, De Bruyn scoring 751 runs at an average of 57.76.
Second was second in the Knights averages with 684 runs at 52.61.
Knights coach Nicky Boje’ said winning the Sunfoil Series was up there with the best moments of his long and decorated career in cricket.
“It’s definitely right up there because we see the four-day tournament as the main competition and it got to a tough stage for us after we were outplayed in Paarl,” he said.
“But we managed to produce an almost-perfect performance in this ‘final’ after all the sides were still in the mix for the trophy. We played good cricket and set ourselves high standards.”
The former international spinner is in his first season as the full-time Knights coach, making the fledgling Boje’/De Bruyn partnership and achievement even more impressive.
“As a new coach, you’ve got to get the players to trust what you are trying to do and I had to make a couple of changes and bring a couple of new guys in. But Theunis as captain, Marchant and Duanne with the new ball and David Miller bringing his international experience have all been massive,” Boje said.
It’s been more than six years since the Knights won a trophy, but Boje’ is adamant this team are still in the early stages of their journey.
“The Knights were in a building phase and didn’t win trophies for the last couple of years, but it’s a process. We want to leave a legacy for young guys coming in so they know how to be a Knight. We are still busy getting everything in place and we have to make sure we keep building. Today was just the first step,” Boje said.