PAARL – After a rather uncharacteristic first two days of frosty weather at Boland Park, the notorious Paarl sun came baking down on Wednesday.
The only team, though, to feel the intense heat was the Cape Cobras.
The home team find themselves firmly up against the wall after being set a record 433 runs to win.
At 75/5 midway through the afternoon session, it seemed that it would all come to a rapid end. But such has been the Cobras’ determination all season, they found two batsmen willing to grit it out for the team’s cause.
Pieter Malan, who is tailor-made for this very situation, dug in and absorbed all the pressure at the one end. The eldest Malan brother has already spent four hours at the crease, and faced 213 balls to head into the sheds unbeaten on 95.
Younger brother Janneman Malan will rue not having shown similar patience at the crease as his “big boet”. The pair added 46 for the first wicket before Janneman went waltzing down the wicket – only to chip a Bjorn Fortuin delivery straight to mid-on.
This opened the door for left-arm spinner Fortuin, who removed both Zubayr Hamza and David Bedingham for ducks to leave the Cobras faltering.
Fortuin had figures of 3/7 at that stage.
The Cobras’ troubles were compounded when fellow left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso joined the fray to dismiss both Aviwe Mgijima and Kyle Verreynne in quick succession.
It was only when Jason Smith joined Pieter Malan that the Cobras found their spine again, with Smith playing positively against both spinners to finish unbeaten on 59.
The pair have already added 111 runs for the sixth wicket, and will need continue for much of the fourth day if the Cobras have any hope of salvaging anything from this contest.
STUMPS Day 3 | A great fightback to keep the contest alive.
Pieter Malan (95*) and Jason Smith (59*) shared in a 111-run stand to help the @WorldSportsBet Cape Cobras to 186/5 after 66 overs at the end of the day’s play.
The hosts still need 247 runs to win #COBvLIO #4DaySeries pic.twitter.com/3eMpic7DgG
“We were pretty far behind when we were bowled out for 130-odd. All we have asked for since is fight and courage. This is a brilliant partnership. This was the fight that we wanted,” Cobras captain Dane Piedt told Independent Media.
“Unfortunately, we allowed them to get back in the game by losing five soft wickets. They are a lot different in the way they played.
"We allowed them to get back in the game by losing five soft wickets", says @CobrasCricket captain @dane_piedt63 with the Cobras requiring 247 runs to win with just 5 wickets left on Day 4. @IOLsport #COBvLIO #4DaySeries pic.twitter.com/nuYmM0hmvt
“Pieter said that he wanted to be in six strong positions every ball. Jason wanted to go forward to meet the spin or right back to play it late. It is brilliant the way they have constructed this partnership.”
Piedt certainly did his bit to at least limit the Lions’ run-scoring in their second innings.
With Nicky van den Burgh (83) and the Lions tail putting together a formidable total, Piedt bowled 37 overs unchanged from the Nederburg End to finish with 5/99.
“I am pretty broken. It is what the team required. Fortunately, I got five wickets,” he said.
“We just need to take it ball-by-ball now. Whatever we can take out of the game, even if we lose, we need to continue learning, and this is a big test.”
HALF-CENTURY | A proper knock in a sticky situation here in Paarl.
Jason Smith (53*) records his second fifty of the season, as he continues to bat with confidence alongside Pieter Malan (79*).
COB: 164/5 after 58 overs, needing 269 runs to win #COBvLIO #4DaySeries pic.twitter.com/eAmQtgDOs8