DURBAN – There was a point, just half an hour into yesterday’s Four-Day Franchise Series action, where the Dolphins looked as if they were about to descend into complete meltdown. 9/3, they were, through a combination of no luck, bad choices and terrible execution.
When it rains, it pours.
And yet, from that early mineshaft, the Dolphins dug and dug. And dug some more. By the afternoon session, their endeavours did realise some reward. Keshav Maharaj and Eathan Bosch employed some old-fashioned cricket sense; leaving well, defending with conviction, and then throwing themselves at anything loose.
Their alliance, which was formed from the doldrums of 69/7, realised 74 golden nuggets. That is how precious runs were in the first hour. Had the middle gone the same way as the top order, the Dolphins might have ended the day already facing a mounting deficit.
New Titans signing, and former Dolphins prospect Tshepo Moreki had come back to familiar haunts and ghosted his way through the top order. His figures read 3 overs, 2 maidens, 3 wickets for 1 run at a point. He couldn’t believe his luck, trapping Sarel Erwee in front - though the left-hander’s reaction suggested there was willow involved - getting Vaughn van Jaarsveld caught at mid-wicket, and then inducing a horrible slap to nowhere from the usually sensible Cody Chetty.
Stumps: The @Hollywoodbets Dolphins finish day 1 on 183-8 (57 overs). A brilliant knock by @keshavmaharaj16 (73)* has kept us in the contest.#DOLvTIT #4DaySeries #DolphinsCricket pic.twitter.com/ORL7CPRyEO
Skipper Khaya Zondo and senior pro Dane Vilas started the repair work with a stand of 52. Vilas was then ousted by the ball of the morning, as Matthew Arnold got one to just go away off the seam, and Vilas (29) got a tickle.
Sibonelo Makhanya (0) was surprised by extra bounce from Arnold soon after, as the Dolphins lost two men without adding to the meagre score. Zondo - having done the hard work to get to 23 in nearly two hours - then smeared Eldred Hawken straight to point, and another crumble appeared to be on the Kingsmead menu, at 69/7.
Enter Bosch and Maharaj, and a much-needed show of grit and patience. Bosch was initially the more fluent of the two, driving with a most pleasant assurance through the covers. His 40 was vital, given the fact that his batting may have handed him the chance to play ahead of the fit-again Daryn Dupavillon.
Maharaj, meanwhile, built a head of steam, and went into overdrive after Bosch had gone. That stand between Bosch and Maharaj may have begun as a bit of an irritation for the Titans, but they would have been seething to see it morph into a change of momentum.
Yesterday, they made as good a start as they could have dreamt up, and then watched the Dolphins tug their way back into calmer waters.
The Dolphins will resume on the second morning on 183/8, with Maharaj on a franchise best 73 not out, and debutant Lwandiswa Zuma on a responsible 4 not out from 34 balls.