A final day century by Sibonelo Makhanya was not enough to save the Dolphins as they slipped to a heavy nine-wicket loss to the Highveld Lions at Kingsmead in Durban on Monday.
The right-hander made 128 (230 balls, 17x4) as the hosts were dismissed for 319 in their follow-on innings, leaving the visitors a victory target of just 46.
And the Johannesburg-based side knocked off those runs in 14.1 overs, thanks to an unbeaten 22 from Reeza Hendricks to reignite the title race by putting pressure on the log-leading Cape Cobras.
For the hosts, it was a fourth loss in seven games this season, and came hot on the heels of beating the same opponents in the previous game.
Their Achilles’ heel was undoubtedly the woeful first-innings performance with the bat, that saw them shot out for just 149 in response to 423 by the Lions.
They resumed the final day already under pressure – on 209/6 and still trailing the away side by 65.
Makhanya and Cody Chetty, who made 53 (81 balls, 8x4), initially batted well as they extended their seventh-wicket partnership to 94, before the stand was snapped by pick of the bowlers Beuran Hendricks (3/79).
The pair erased the deficit when they were together and Ethan Bosch (28) gave the Dolphins hope of at least putting up some sort of a target after a stand of 35 with Makhanya.
But that was broken when Malusi Siboto (2/50) finally ended the resistance of the latter and then the former, with Wiaan Mulder (2/38) wrapping up the tail.
Man-of-the-Match Stephen Cook (15) was the only wicket to fall in the chase, but it mattered little as the Lions cruised to a crucial win.
Its all over. It's the ideal start to the year for the lions as we got the required 47 second innings runs needed to claim a 9 wicket victory over @DolphinsCricket in our #4DaySeries match in Kingsmead today. #DOLvLIO #LionsCharge pic.twitter.com/bIotwDz9AQ— Lions Cricket (@LionsCricketSA) January 7, 2019
Cricket South Africa