DURBAN – The Dolphins might have started the final session of their first day against the Lions feeling like Vaughn van Jaarsveld’s face after a frightful blow to the cheek, but they ended it by landing a few blows of their own at Kingsmead.
The visiting Lions ended Friday on 295/4 after 86 overs on a placid pitch.
The Lions, looking to avenge a defeat at The Wanderers from two weeks ago, won the toss and made the easy decision to take first strike.
Proteas ace Reeza Hendricks and former Test opener Stephen Cook added a serene 166 for the opening stand, with the wicket playing most comfortably.
Cook, typically composed at the crease, was largely untroubled as he compiled a 47th first-class century.
At the other end, Hendricks looked every inch the dominator he was during the Mzansi Super League, driving with the authority and assurance of a man finding his place at the next level of the game.
The surprise was that he didn’t go on to three figures too, as he tamely lobbed Eathan Bosch to mid-on and trudged off for a fluent 86 off just 128 balls.
Kagiso Rapulana joined Cook, and he didn’t release the pressure either.
It was Rapulana’s cut when he was on 15 that caught Van Jaarsveld unawares. It flew straight at his face, and the senior batsman dropped like a boxer.
The reaction of the fielders around him suggested it was even more serious, but those grave fears were assuaged when Van Jaarsveld walked off himself – albeit clasping the left half of his face.
He went to hospital, and early reports from the team suggested that though there is severe bruising to the cheek area, nothing was broken, and he may yet get patched up and bat lower down the order.
Rapulana went to a steady half-century himself, mixing aggression with certain footwork. He clubbed a six over cow corner, and blazed several boundaries through a packed off-side field.
He and Cook fell in quick succession, though, the latter caught at second slip, and Rapulana tamely running a catch to the keeper.
That saw the Lions slip to 278/3, and they were four down when the returning Wiaan Mulder fell for a nine-ball duck that had symptoms of rust about it.
He was bowled by Sen Muthusamy, who got through 27 overs of labour on the opening day.
He may have to bowl a whole lot more before this match is over, because there is not much encouragement for the seam pack.
Bosch ended the day with 2/46 in 14 overs, bowling better as the day wore on. Keith Dudgeon accounted for Cook, but they didn’t find the incisive edge of the Bullring.
Andile Phehlukwayo seemed to have gained a yard of pace, but he went wicketless through 17 overs.
Stumps: It was an eventful day 1 at Kingsmead as Stephen Cook (130) got a century. R Hendricks (86) and K Rapulana (54) picked their first-class 50's— Lions Cricket (@LionsCricketSA) January 4, 2019
Day two begins tomorrow morning with N van den Bergh (5*) and H vd Dussen (12*) continuing to bat for the #Lions #4dayseries pic.twitter.com/AluF17in5X
The Lions, with six wickets in hand, will be eyeing at least 450 when they return to the crease on Saturday.
Rassie van der Dussen and Nicky van den Bergh are both lethal in the middle-order, and they bat all the way down to Malusi Siboto and Nono Pongolo.
Second on the Four-day Franchise Series table, the men from Gauteng will fancy a rich haul of points, even if they are already fighting the weather as well.
Ten overs were lost on the opening day due to bad light. That is a trend that will likely to continue all weekend, with the forecast not exactly balmy.
Scores in brief
Lions 295/4 (Stephen Cook 130, Reeza Hendricks 86, Kagiso Rapulana 54; Ethan Bosch 2/46)@whamzam17