In the end, a hectic week of cricket finally caught with the Cape Cobras.
Playing their third Momentum One-Day Cup match within five days, the Cobras had nothing left in the tank at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
Coach Ashwell Prince would never use fatigue as an excuse for the 75-run bonus point to the Knights – their first win of the competition – but the Cobras were simply off the pace from ball one.
Considering they had dispatched the very same outfit within 37 overs only last Wednesday at Newlands makes the result even less conceivable.
Everything seemed to go wrong for the Cobras from the moment captain JP Duminy won the toss and sent in the home side.
Although the experiment of promoting Proteas slugger David Miller to open the batting was failure after the left-hander was clean-bowled by Dane Paterson for just eight, the remainder of the Knights innings flowed beautifully.
The hosts finally addressed their lack of partnerships throughout the competition with Grant Mokoena (75, 3x4, 2x6) and Andries Gous (74, 8x4) putting on 113 runs for the second wicket before Mokoena was clean-bowled by Duminy.
Although there was a mini-collapse when Gous and former Cobras batsman Keegan Petersen fell in quick succession to leave the Knights at 184/5 in the 38th over, the home team captain Rudi Second and Patrick Kruger ensured the early platform would not go to waste.
After smashing a hundred last Wednesday at Newlands, Kruger (66 not out off 43 balls, 3x3, 3x6) certainly has a liking for the Cobras bowlers.
He continued where he left off in Cape Town by sharing in an unbeaten stand of 135 for the fifth wicket from just 83 deliveries with Second (78 not out off 58 balls, 5x4, 5x6) which propelled the Knights to 320/4.
A major feature of the Knights innings was that the Cobras new-ball pair of Rory Kleinveldt (0/76) and Paterson (1/72) leaked the combined figures of 1/148 in 19 overs.
Considering they have been the standout pace-bowling in the competition thus far spoke volumes about the Cobras’ effort with the ball on Sunday.
The Cobras batting unit did not fare much better. Each batsman besides all-rounder Dayaan Galiem, who got a first-ball duck, and last man Mthiwekhaya Nabe reached double figures.
There was another promising start for Zubayr Hamza (28 off 28 balls), but the young opener will need to make greater use of his opportunities if he wants to become a regular in the Cobras starting line-up.
Equally, the in-form trio of Pieter Malan (28), Simon Khomari (21) and Duminy (39) all got going, but unlike in previous matches when they all went on to bigger contributions, they did not capitalise on Sunday.
Ultimately it was left to wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne (54 off 49 balls, 2x4, 3x6) to keep the visitors in the game with a gutsy half-century, but the mountain was too steep to climb for the former SA Under-19 gloveman.
Knights leg-spinner Eddie Leie was also able to avenge his mauling at Newlands when Duminy smashed him for 37 runs in a single over as he claimed 4/65 to finish off the contest.
The 75-run defeat has blown away the Cobras’ chances of finishing top of the One-Day Cup log after the table-topping Titans moved six points ahead after defeating the Dolphins on Sunday, but they can still secure a home semi-final should they beat the Warriors on Friday.