1st Team v Blythe CC, Staffs - 1st XI.
By Andrew Birkin
Burslem all-rounder Christi Viljoen hits new heights with superb display.
Christi Viljoen's stock continues to rise following another remarkable performance in Burslem's weekend victory over Blythe.
The Namibia international had already announced his arrival on the Division One stage with a century and five wickets on his debut at Bignall End. He repeated the feat on Saturday to earn Burslem a second win of the season as visitors Blythe fell 18 runs short.
Viljoen's 117 was a crucial effort for the Festival Heights side as they posted 193 all out. His contribution was equally important to quell any Blythe victory hopes. They were neatly poised on 108- 3 at one stage, but Viljoen's 5-48, plus 4-27 from Michael Brown, saw them bowled out for 175.
Burslem skipper Kevin Mountford said: "Christi is a class act. We were struggling after losing three early wickets, so we certainly needed his hundred. It was a different type of innings to his one earlier in the season because he didn't go gung ho. We said to him it was important we batted the 55 overs, so there was more thought to his innings."
Burslem has slipped to 18-3 before Viljoen entered the fray to wrestle the balance of power back in his sides favour. He struck 11 fours and one six in his innings, receiving fine support from Michael Rowley (23) and Saad Qureshi (22) along the way.
However, Blythe were kept in the game by seamer Matthew Goodwin's haul of 5-63. And their victory hopes grew even further once Alex Heslop's 33 had enabled them to reach 108-3.
However, Viljoen, a relentless presence with the ball, gradually chipped away at the visitors' line-up. Dan Hammond dug deep to make 63 to keep Blythe in with a shout, but along with Michael Brown (4-27), Viljoen wrapped up proceedings.
"Our total was perhaps a bit under par, especially with Blythe having such a powerful top three," added Mountford. "We didn't take early wickets, but Christi kept it tight and Blythe never really got away from us. We spilled a couple of catches and Dan Hammond kept them in with a chance. They could have got even closer, so it was a relief when he was out."
Mountford says having the likes of Viljoen and Brown in his armoury is vital for Burslem. And he believes that the make-up of his side gives them a chance of success this summer.
"Christi and Browny are wicket-takers, so the others just have to keep it tight," explained Mountford. "We're very happy with the balance of the team. In the past we've had bowling-specialist pros, but having Christi enables us to strengthen the batting as well."
Blythe all-rounder Goodwin conceded that Viljoen had been the difference.
"The pro nicked a couple through the slips early on, but after that it was a chanceless innings by him," he said. "It was a flat wicket, so 190 was certainly chaseable for our point of view. At 108-3 we needed someone from the top order to go on and make a big score. Dan nearly got us over the line, but it wasn't to be. Credit to Viljoen, though, he bowled his socks off. I have to say, he's one of the best cricketers I've ever played against – he was that good."