Paarl - A magnificent century from Justin Ontong helped the top-of-the-table Cape Cobras fight back strongly on the opening day of their domestic four-day clash against the second-placed Dolphins in Paarl on Thursday.
The home captain struck exactly 150 from 249 deliveries before falling with what turned out to be the final delivery of the day with his side closing on 304 for nine.
It was Ontong's 20th first-class century and came after a dreadful start by the defending champions after they lost their first three wickets with only 24 on the board.
The Dolphins won the toss at the start, opting to bowl first with the decision fully vindicated after Omphile Ramela (six), Andrew Puttick (six) and Stiaan van Zyl (seven) all falling inside the opening nine overs.
Craig Alexander (2/85) made the initial breakthroughs along with Kyle Abbott, who was the pick of the bowlers with four for 60, but Ontong and Yaseen Vallie (44) added 63 for the fourth wicket to restore some stability.
The latter along with Dane Vilas (five) fell in quick succession leaving the Cobras five down with less than 100 on the board.
However, Justin Kemp (32) and Dane Piedt (26) provided good support for their skipper, who went to three figures in 190 balls, before Keshav Maharaj (3/63) dismissed him on the stroke of stumps.
Meanwhile in Bloemfontein, there was also a wicket with the final ball of the day as the Knights ensured they ended day one on top against the Warriors.
David White notched up only a fourth century of his career before falling along with Ryan Bailey (60) in the final four overs of play.
Opener White made 112 from 258 balls with the visitors closing on 231 for six after winning the toss and batting.
A wet outfield had delayed the start, but there were still 86.4
overs bowled by the home side with two wickets apiece for Werner Coetsee (2/44) and Johan van der Wath (2/60).
The Highveld Lions had closed to within 38 runs of the Titans' first-innings score as they finished the first day at the Wanderers on 109 for four.
Medium-pacer Brett Pelser had earlier taken four for 28 in 15
overs as the Titans were dismissed for just 147, having won the toss and elected to bat first.
The team from north of the Jukskei River are still very much in the contest, however, as the Wanderers pitch is showing signs of inconsistent bounce to go with the movement available, suggesting batting last will be a tough task.
Titans openers Heino Kuhn (13) and Francois le Clus (16) made a solid start as they added 33 before being dismissed within four deliveries of each other and, with captain Henry Davids (14) also wasting a start, it was left to Qaasim Adams to lead the visitors to a mediocre total of 147.
Adams, who played 22 matches for Western Province and just five for the Cobras before joining the Titans this season, played within himself for two-and-a-half hours in scoring 59.
Apart from Pelser, who knew exactly where to pitch the ball in order to get maximum assistance from the wicket, left-armer Cliffe Deacon obtained swing and claimed three for 41. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was employed at the back end of the innings, where he wrapped up the tail to finish with two for nine in 4.2 overs.
The Lions began their reply in unsettled weather conditions, with two short rain delays, and captain Stephen Cook fell for a duck, edging CJ de Villiers to wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle.
Young left-arm paceman Vincent Moore then dished up a lively spell, removing Temba Bavuma (25) and Dominic Hendricks (21), before Neil McKenzie (30*) and Devon Conway (27) tamed the dastardly pitch in a fourth-wicket stand of 49.
But Conway fell 10 balls before stumps, edging an overly militant stroke to Mosehle to give the aggressive Moore his third wicket.