DURBAN – At precisely 3.58pm on Friday afternoon, the ominous clouds around Durban honed in on Kingsmead and hastened the umpires’ search for the light meters.
As ever in these parts in October, the Dolphins and the Knights are fighting time and weather as much as anything else, and their Sunfoil Series match requires a miracle or a massacre to manufacture a result.
Already, play is starting at 9am to try and make up for lost time and precious light. If they start any sooner, the lunch break will turn into brunch, and stumps will be called while the rest of the country is taking their tea.
When stumps were called on day two, the hosts were on 343/5 after 80 overs.
Sarel Erwee (151) and Cody Chetty (101 not out) scored the bulk of the runs for the home side on a day when the batsmen could well and truly fill their boots.
The Knights delivered a veritable buffet in the first session, inviting Erwee and then Vaughn van Jaarsveld to drive through the covers and straight down the ground to their hearts’ content.
Opener Senuran Muthusamy had earlier run himself out for just seven.
Van Jaarsveld, who registered a third half-century in as many visits to the crease, must have felt even worse than Muthusamy, though.
Yet again, he did the hard work. Yet again, he settled himself and got beyond that point where batsmen are still uncertain what an innings holds.
Here, then, was an opportunity to score as many runs as his heart desired. The bowling was rank, the sun was out, and the pitch playing far better than a surface that had been cosseted by canvas for nearly 48 hours.
Somehow Van Jaarsveld saw fit to flick Ottniel Baartman to short midwicket, where David Miller gratefully clung on.
Van Jaarsveld’s 53 from 70 balls ought to have been the platform, but it proved to be his pinnacle, adding to his extensive collection of ‘nearly knocks’.
While he perished, Erwee plundered. Such was his impunity to the pitched-up offerings that he smote 20 boundaries in his century – a frightful percentage of runs to the fence, to be sure.
Beyond three figures, he grew bolder, lifting the slow men straight over their heads, beyond the ropes, and deep into the stands.
Four times he did that, until he skied Keegan Petersen to long-off and departed for 151 fine runs, his second and most certain century at the franchise level.
At the other end, Chetty was his usual rubber-wristed self, flicking and fiddling his way to a hard-working fifth century for the Dolphins.
There is no doubt that he saw plenty of Hashim Amla while coming through the KZN ranks, and there are hints of the Bearded One’s trademark in some of Chetty’s best moments.
His back-foot play was delicious, as he stood tall and punched with relish when the Knights strayed wide.
When he lost Erwee, the Dolphins had an unnecessary wobble, one that would suggest to those who only saw the scorecards that the Knights had bowled infinitely better than they did.
Khaya Zondo, fresh from a determined ton in Pretoria, shovelled a pie from Petersen straight to square-leg when it ought to have been spanked on to the M12 motorway.
Zondo was followed by Sibonelo Makhanya, as both flattered Petersen and gave the visitors late joy on a day when they might have had to walk back to the hotel in contemplation.
There was just enough time for Chetty to reach three figures before darkness descended, and the players soon swapped the cricket ball for a spot of football.