Warriors soar higher and higher
Remember that rasping Creed song, "Can you take me higher?" Those scratchy, distressed words could well have been the ballad the South Australian Redbacks and the Warriors waltzed to in Centurion. "When dreaming I'm guided to another world" - a world where hunger knows no bounds.
The Redbacks have not won a trophy in 15 years and the parched trophy cupboard is getting anxious. Michael Klinger, their captain, always maintained that the team had high hopes coming into the tournament, and he couldn't hide his disappointment that they couldn't fulfil those aims. "It's definitely frustrating, once we got to the semi-finals, we thought we could go all the way," Klinger said. "A lot of people didn't expect us to make it to the semi-finals, but we did. We applied ourselves really well, but we were outplayed in all three aspects today."
The Warriors have an appetite of a different sort. After capturing their first two trophies since the franchise system started last season, they have become addicted to the thrill of victory. Davy Jacobs, the Warriors captain, said before the game that the Eastern Cape side had a vision of becoming the best franchise in the world by next year, but hinted that perhaps their time had come a little earlier.
They were ready to ask themselves, "Can you take me higher, to a place where blind men see?" With eyes wide open, the Warriors appeared to see everything. The only moment of blur was when Ashwell Prince hung his bat out to dry against the second-fastest ball bowled in the competition. "It's Shaun Tait's job to take wickets, you can't stop that. When Ashwell got out, it was important for the next guy who came in, Colin Ingram, to do the job, and he did," Jacobs said.
Ingram and the captain combined for a second-wicket stand of 104, with Jacobs the dominant partner. His 61 saw him soar to the top of the run charts. Despite his scintillating highs, Jacobs didn't want to say much about himself. "This is basically the way I have been playing for the last couple of years. But, I don't like to talk about myself; I'd rather talk about the team."
For the Redbacks, visibility wasn't always that clear. Strangely, they sometimes saw with the precision of a bird of prey, like when Daniel Harris ran from his follow-through to square leg to dismiss Jacobs. At other times, their eyesight, along with a few other factors, let them down. The Redbacks put down Ingram twice and Mark Boucher once. "Most of the catches were pretty tough and some of them just didn't stick today. We've prided ourselves on good fielding for most of the tournament," Klinger said.
The Warriors were seeing the ball like a pumpkin in the field. Boucher watched it climb a stairway to heaven and spiral down into his gloves to send Harris on his way for eight. Johan Botha almost swallowed the ball, when, three deliveries later, it was hit to him on the midwicket rope. Klinger was gone for 13, and the Redbacks had lost their two kingpins.
The one man who may have appeared to have weak visibility was the ultimate Warrior himself, Makhaya Ntini. He laboured in the field and bowled two expensive overs. With the Wanderers pitch expected to be bouncy, will Ntini have fitted his pair of lenses, to be back to his best? "I wouldn't say he is in bad form, he had a good game in the last match. Perhaps the pitch just didn't suit him," Jacobs said, adding that Ntini's experience can never be underestimated. "He has been playing for South Africa for more than decade and he knows the Wanderers very well."
The Warriors are just one rung away from the top of the ladder they set out to climb. Klinger had some words of praise for his opponents, hinting that he thought the scale was ever-so-slightly tipped in their favour. "They have quite a predictable game, so we knew exactly who was going to bowl which over, but it didn't matter, because they are so difficult to beat. They probably already had their bad game against Chennai," he said.
So, the Warriors go higher. "To a place with golden streets." To Johannesburg. To the final.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg