DURBAN – Two of the three Sunfoil Series matches on the go around the country are already closing in on a result, with the Knights maintaining their vice-like grip on the Dolphins, and the Lions and the Warriors hurtling towards a hasty conclusion in East London.
In Pretoria, meanwhile, the Cobras and the Titans look set to go deep into Sunday, after a Dane Piedt-dominated day saw the Cobras enjoying an upper hand on Friday.
It is in East London, however, where things are happening quickly.
Already, the Lions require just 149 more runs to win – but they have to buck a trend of wickets tumbling every day if they are to pull off a much-needed morale boost.
Having bowled out their hosts for 193 on the opening day, the Lions themselves could only manage 178 in their first dig.
That was down to a patient 69 by Rassie van der Dussen, an innings which may be worth a lot more by the time the considerable dust settles.
Simon Harmer and JJ Smuts shared six wickets for the hosts, as spin continued to dominate proceedings.
In their second innings, the Warriors were routed out for 145, with Beuran Hendricks doing the damage this time.
It was the left-arm seamer’s most impressive return since joining the Lions from the Cape Cobras, and he finished with excellent figures of 6/31 in 11.3 overs.
Only Yaseen Vallie’s responsible 40 gave the hosts some sort of chance. By the close, the Lions had limped to 12/1 in pursuit of 161.
Skipper Stephen Cook confirmed a miserable match with the bat, castled by Anrich Nortjé’s opening delivery of the chase.
In Bloemfontein, the Knights enforced the follow-on as they kept up the heat on the Dolphins.
They were bowled out for 478, with Shadley van Schalkwyk’s free-hitting 70 off 67 balls adding the gloss to the work done by the top-order – though visiting skipper Keshav Maharaj was rewarded with 5/128 from his 41.4 overs of toil.
In reply, the Dolphins were rolled out for 237, thanks to a bruising spell of fast bowling from Marchant de Lange.
The former Protea scythed through the top-order, and then mopped up the tail, ending with figures of 5/57.
Senuran Muthusamy’s 95, and a typically combative 57 from Robbie Frylinck saved some of the Dolphins’ blushes, but Theunis de Bruyn wasted no time in enforcing the follow-on.
At the end of day two, the Dolphins still had all 10 wickets intact, but they have a mountain to climb if they are to avoid defeat to the defending champions.
In Benoni, things happened at a far more sedate pace as the Cobras eventually reached 428 before being dismissed by the Titans at Willowmoore Park.
Pieter Malan’s marathon knock realised 137 runs, scored from 317 balls and over seven hours at the crease.
Once the opener fell, skipper Dane Piedt took it upon himself to up the ante, clubbing 74 from just 116 balls before he was last man out.
Piedt then took the ball and inflicted all the damage to the Titans’ top-order as he helped himself to 3/43 in his 14 overs.
He trapped national opener Dean Elgar in front, and the same method was employed to get rid of young Tony de Zorzi, who was also nabbed by Piedt’s nagging accuracy.
The off-spinner was not done yet, however, as half-centurion Andrea Agathangelou became his third victim of the afternoon.
The well-travelled No 3 fell for 51, having added 82 adhesive runs with the classy Heino Kuhn.
The experienced Kuhn ended the day on 57 not out, and his side will look to him to build on that foundation considerably on the third morning.
The Titans still trail their visitors by a concerning 260 runs, with seven wickets remaining.