Jamie How looked shattered at the press conference. He wasn't sure where his team was making mistakes. In all their matches they have won phases of play and looked very competitive before it went kaput. Suddenly, they go flat. Inexplicably, the bad habits creep in and the opponents walk all over them. It's a matter of skill of course but it's not only that. The youngsters freeze when they get a chance to get ahead. They still haven't experienced victory; they still don't know what it takes to win. And so, probably, they freeze. "We have to sit down and find out what happens in those moments," How said later. "They are learning fast - this is a valuable learning platform - and will be better off for the experience."
It's in those exact moments where Warriors score. It's in those exact moments where they don't choke. They used to choke for 18 years. "Whenever the game was in a fifty-fifty situation the boys would give up," Davey Jacobs, their captain, said the other day. It was before he took over the leadership. Young blood was drafted in - the likes of Colin Ingram, Craig Thyssen, Rusty Theron - and the team's character began to change. The seniors too pulled their weight and as a result Warriors have become a champion team.
Today, it was the seniors who did everything. Before the game, it was expected that Central Districts wouldn't offer much fight. They were 63 for 1 after six overs. They had gatecrashed the party. Or so it seemed. Jacobs threw the ball to his spinners, Nicky Boje and Johan Botha. Boje struck in his first over, Botha in his second and suddenly the game had changed. Central Districts were at 84 for 3 after12 overs.
The two spinners work well in tandem. "Boje is slower through the air, whereas I am quicker and we both strangled them a bit in the middle overs," Botha said. Only one other team, Chennai Super Kings, has two international spinners playing together in this competition. It's in the middle-overs that the game changed. Though How tried valiantly in the end, they couldn't bat Warriors out of the game.
The chase was still stiff, but they had another senior in Ashwell Prince who played a neat supporting act to Jacob's adventurous knock. Prince is not known for his limited-overs hitting. Don't try telling him or his captain that though. "The South African selectors haven't given me much chance in limited-overs format and so the perception of the outside world is that I am only a Test player. I am not."
Even as you were listening to Prince, his captain jumps at you. "Let me tell you, in the 50-overs and T20 competitions that we won last year Prince opened and scored 130 and 70 respectively," Jacobs said. "So I don't think you can box him as a Test player." It was Prince who walked up to his coach last year and spoke of his desire to open in the limited-overs. The team management saw merit in that and gave him the option.
The seniors have done the job so far in the tournament. "It was the youngsters who started the turnaround for us in the domestic competition," Jacobs said. "Yes the seniors have done well here and have always done so but it won't be long before you see the likes of Ingram, Thyssen and the rest start firing."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo