'We were a family out there' - Alviro Petersen
There is plenty to ponder when a David like Alviro Petersen breathes the same rarefied air as the Goliath who is Sachin Tendulkar. And the Highveld air was indeed rare at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, where Petersen's Lions played Tendulkar's Mumbai in the Champions League Twenty 20 opener.
Lo and behold, David's dapper dazzlers stuck to the Biblical script by slaying Goliath's giants by nine runs. Let the atheists among us quiver in disbelief: look in the Book. It was, unarguably, by any measure reasonable or unreasonable, the biggest win in the hitherto limping Lions franchise's history, and Petersen knew it.
"It's a great start," he said after the game. "It's all we could ask for. We were underdogs, but we were a family out there. On paper, the Mumbai Indians are probably the better team. But we focused on what we had to do and our bowlers came through beautifully in the end."
Tendulkar did his bit with a sparkling 69, but it wasn't enough on the night. Not that Petersen was about to admit that the Mumbai skipper was an unusually large thorn in the Lions' paws. "Whether we play against Sachin Tendulkar or just an ordinary guy, we play with the same intensity."
For all that, Petersen has first-hand knowledge that Tendulkar is anything but ordinary. They first met on the field in Kolkata, in February this year, when the South African marked his Test debut with an innings of 100. Tendulkar made 106, the 47th of his 48 centuries in the 166th of his 169 Tests.
Neither had a memorable first one-day international in Jaipur, but the second match of that series, in Gwalior, will forever be remembered as the game in which Tendulkar took one-day batting into a galaxy far, far away with his monumental 200 not out. Petersen scored nine.
The trend looked set to continue at the Wanderers on Friday. In the fourth over of the Lions' innings, Petersen and Jonathan Vandiar scooted for the same end of the pitch. Petersen was declared dead on arrival for 12 when the bails were removed leisurely at the other end.
Tendulkar looked dead in the water for six when Ethan O'Reilly struck him plumb in front in the second over of the Indians' reply. Asoka de Silva was among the few in the ground who reckoned otherwise. A blink of an eye later, Tendulkar was bumbling about mid-pitch when a frozen rope of a throw whizzed past the stumps. "I just put it behind me and thought about the next ball," Petersen said about the near miss. "The next ball is the important thing." Three overs of next balls after that, a shy that might have run Tendulkar out for 18 hit him instead.
By the time Shane "Cheese" Burger knocked out two of Tendulkar's stumps, in the 15th over, the momentum was firmly with Mumbai. Only for Burger to snatch the advantage back for the Lions by yorking Kieron Pollard, a ball after the West Indian had launched him over long-on for six. JP Duminy and R Sathish also became casualties as the Lions surged to their famous victory.
"Hats off to the Lions bowlers. They were exceptional in the last four overs. Until then, we were very much in the game," said Duminy, who had been sent to the post-match press conference instead of his captain. "He [Tendulkar] played extremely well, but it's a team sport and we all have to chip in. Unfortunately, we ended up a few runs short."
Vandiar, who rose from the ashes of his moment of madness with Petersen to score a 71 that bristled with pugnacity and verve, showed he has a few things to learn about diplomacy off the field as well as on it. Asked what he thought about batting as well as he had against an attack studded with bowlers of the stature of Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh, Vandiar said, "They're world class, but they're just guys."
Petersen, who went to some trouble to explain that his team remained the tournament underdogs, despite their fine win, might want to have a word with the youngster about that. After all, the Lions captain has up close and personal knowledge of what world class players can do.
Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa