DURBAN – The Sunfoil Series is set for a dramatic conclusion this weekend, following a gripping afternoon in the penultimate round of matches yesterday which saw the Warriors remain top of the competition’s standings, but by just one point.
The Warriors played out a rousing draw against the defending champions the Knights in East London with the hosts just eight runs short of victory, while the Knights only needed two wickets to win.
The dramatic outcome came despite the whole of Friday’s play being washed out and was set up by the Knights’ lunchtime declaration which left the Warriors with a target of 256 off a minimum of 62 overs.
It was a pursuit that the Warriors started aggressively as they raced to 80 after 16 overs before Gihahn Cloete became the first of Werner Coetsee’s six wickets. A partnership of 73 followed for the second wicket between Ed Moore and Warriors skipper JJ Smuts, again at a reasonably good rate, with Moore eventually falling for 73 off 101 balls having hit 12 fours and a six.
Moore’s wicket was the start of an awful collapse for the home team, engineered by the wily Coetsee as they lost 6/34 in 14 overs, giving the Knights hope of victory. Among those six wickets was Smuts, bowled by Duanne Olivier for 41.
It left Simon Harmer and Sisanda Magala battling whether to keep chasing the target or just keep the Knights out, and for a while it seemed like they were choosing the latter. A couple of boundaries by both batsmen against a tiring Coetsee, saw the door open once again for the Warriors but Coetsee still had enough energy to induce a mistake from Magala (18), taking a catch off his own bowling to end a gutsy 49-run partnership for the eighth wicket.
Harmer, who finished not out on 35, and Tladi Bokako saw out the remaining overs, coming within touching distance of a win, that would have given the Warriors some breathing room ahead of their last match of the season in Durban against the Dolphins.
Elsewhere, Dolphins had pressed hard throughout the afternoon at the Wanderers to try and put themselves back in contention in the competition, as they tried to chase 285 set by the Highveld Lions.
A 74-run opening stand between Man-of-the-Match Dane Vilas and Sarel Erwee, was the perfect start and they remained comfortably ahead of the required run-rate even as they started losing wickets regularly. Erwee scored 50 off 47 balls hitting a six and half a dozen fours, while Vilas, a bit more sedate than in the first innings when he made a fine century, scored 23. Perhaps influenced by a storm that was rapidly closing in, the Dolphins panicked and once they lost Vaughn van Jaarsveld for a bruising 59 they actually opened the door for an unlikely Lions win.
That however was snuffed out by the storm, which ended proceedings at 5pm with the Dolphins on 199/7. The Lions’ prospects in this competition have long ended, and the odds on the Dolphins winning it have lengthened too.
Meanwhile, the draw in East London also ensured that the Cape Cobras and Titans remain very much in with a chance of winning the four-day title, despite their playing to a dreary draw in Paarl.
Bat dominated ball at Boland Park - the Titans scoring 435/9decl in their first innings and the Cobras 460 in theirs - but such was the slow rate of scoring that neither team could position themselves for a win.
However with just 6.42 points separating the Warriors in first from the Titans in fourth it remains very much all to play for in the final round of the competition which starts on Thursday.