Lions tamed by Proteas
Gibbs makes immediate impact ahead of series opener
By Joe Drabble. Last Updated: August 14, 2008 6:30pm
Gibbs: Back with a bang
England Lions 184 (R W T Key 51) v South Africa 185-6 (H H Gibbs 81)
South Africa beat England Lions by 4 wkts
South Africa began their preparations for the one-day series against England in impressive fashion as they overcame the Lions by four wickets at Grace Road.
Despite resting key trio, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher - the tourists powered to a comprehensive victory in the first of two matches against England's second string.
The returning Dale Steyn helped restrict the hosts to 184 all out as he claimed 3-27 - Herschelle Gibbs then top-scored for the Proteas with 81 off 104 balls to set up the win.
Rob Key was the only Lions batsman to come out of their meagre total with any credit, the Kent captain made 51 before being clean bowled by Makhaya Ntini.
The Lions makeshift opening partnership failed to provide any impetus at the top of the order, Joe Denly was the first man to depart for just 10 - partner Owais Shah (27) followed soon after.
Key came to the crease and provided some much-needed stability as wickets began to tumble at a worrying regularity.
After Ravi Bopara had ran himself out for 23, Andre Nel struck twice in an over to dismiss Matt Prior (1) and debutant Samit Patel for a golden duck.
At 108-5, Luke Wright joined Key in the middle and attempted to give the lower order some momentum by hitting 29 off 41 balls, but Ntini returned to wrap up the tail with a five-over burst of 3-12.
Opener Gibbs, who has lost his Test place recently, struggled for timing during the early stages but crafted together an innings which the Lions had desperately craved themselves.
However, it could have been an altogether different story had Steve Kirby not overstepped in a delivery which saw Gibbs chip the ball tamely into the hands of Key at midwicket while on 13.
To their credit the Lions refused to lie down, and, after removing the dangerous Hashim Amla (8) early on, leading domestic wicket-taker Kabir Ali struck soon after to dismiss Justin Ontong (1) to leave South Africa on 39-2.
However, Ontong's dismissal was the last time the Lions put the tourists under serious pressure with Gibbs and AB de Villiers (24) putting on 49 runs before Jean-Paul Duminy (23) continued the momentum.
With a comprehensive victory and a century in sight, Gibbs advanced down the wicket to all-rounder Wright and edged behind to spark a mini-collapse.
His demise sparked a slump of three wickets for 19 runs in five overs until, fittingly for the Lions, South Africa's victory was completed by a leg-side wide from Wright.