"Make an effort number 73," blurted a random voice from somewhere inside the Bullring. Number 73 was the number of the captain of the Highveld Lions Alviro Petersen. He had done nothing but watch from the slips as his wicketkeeper, Thami Tsolekile, got beaten by a lack of turn from Aaron Phangiso, the spinner in operation, and conceded two byes. At worst, it was unfair abuse, at best, a silly joke.
The fan who made that retort didn't need to ask for more from the captain, who went on to engineer a solid, nine-wicket thumping over Guyana. "I believe in leading from the front and think it's important for a captain to do well," Petersen said. At the point of the fan's outburst, Guyana were 61 for 3 and despite some good bowling were putting up a bit of a fight. Four strangulating overs followed and then Petersen pulled the trigger, with the throw that ran out Christopher Barnwell. His all-round performance also included a fine catch on the boundary and a second successive half-century.
Petersen was at the helm of a unit that was solid in the field. The team claimed two run-outs and took four catches. What made the difference in the field, for Petersen, was the bowling, particularly the inclusion of fast bowler Craig Alexander. "We had to leave Werner Coetsee out as a second spinner and that allowed us to bring Craig in. He was reaching speeds of just under 150kmh and got a big breakthrough with Ramnaresh Sarwan's wicket."
Ethan O' Reilly was the other bowler Petersen singled out. His career best 4 for 27 was in danger of being overshadowed by Richard Cameron's blazing knock, but Petersen didn't forget to pay tribute to his strike bowler. "It's nice to be able to get guys of Craig's and Ethan's pace bowling together. Ethan is a regular in our team and he showed his class with the ball today."
Despite heaping praise on Alexander, Petersen said there are no guarantees that he will feature in the next game. "We made it clear that we would select horses for courses in this tournament and it was good to get Craig involved this time. We have healthy competition for places in the team." One of the bowlers who come into contention for a place is Shane Burger, whose back strain has kept him out of the last two matches. Petersen said the man who removed Sachin Tendulkar should be fit for Tuesday's match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
A win in that match will be vital for the Lions if they are to progress to the semi-finals and Petersen is confident of their chances. "We came into the tournament having decided that we will take it one ball at a time. It's a big game for us and if we prepare well, like we did for this match then I think we have a good chance."
For the other captain, Sarwan, matters aren't quite so celebratory. "We knew that 148 was not enough. Initially, I felt we were 20-30 runs short but when they won with five overs to spare, I realised that even 170 wouldn't have been enough." Despite a third loss in as many games, Sarwan thinks some of the criticism aimed at his men is too harsh, especially the frequency with which they are being judged against Cinderella team Trinidad and Tobago. "The comparisons have already started but what people must not forget is that we won the Caribbean T20 competition and we deserve to be here." Sarwan has always argued that Guyana were inexperienced but was disappointed that they didn't "learn as quickly as we needed to do" through the tournament.
That lack of experience showed in the field, with Guyana offering too many short balls to the Lions' batsmen. It was what allowed Petersen and Cameron to cross the boundary rope 19 times between them. "Richard batted beautifully and I was just hanging in there. He has really made that No. 3 spot his own," said Petersen. Although he chose to downplay his own innings, when he was at the crease, there was no doubt who number 73 was. "Petersen, Petersen," came the calls from the same corner they had erupted from earlier. There was no need to add "make an effort."