The Warriors and Knights are set for a dramatic final day in East London Sunday, with the winner likely to top the Sunfoil Series points table ahead of the competition’s final round of matches next week.
When bad light brought a premature conclusion to Saturday’s play, the Knights were on 87/3 a lead of 94 after a sterling effort from their bowlers saw them take a seven run lead on the first innings when they bowled the Warriors out for 181.
Ottniel Baartman was the hero for the visitors, claiming 4/46 and was instrumental in engineering a mid-innings collapse which saw the Warriors lose seven wickets for just 19 runs in 13 overs.
The hosts had resumed on 77/2 after the whole of the second day was washed out by rain, and were making steady progress thanks to a 57-run partnership between Gihahn Cloete (64) and Yaseen Vallie (26) for the third wicket. However after Ryan McLaren bowled Vallie midway through the 32nd over, chaos ensured, as the Knights, still searching for their first win in the competition, rapidly pulled themselves back into the match.
Baartman claimed the wickets of Gionne Koopman (1), Lesiba Ngoepe(0), Simon Harmer (0) and Tladi Bokako (1) as the Warriors crashed from 125/2 to 144/9. In the context of the match, Sisanda Magala’s unbeaten 27, which came as part of a 37-run partnership with Anrich Nortje (7), may yet prove crucial.
Besides Baartman, the other heroes with the ball for the Knights were McLaren 2/47 and Duanne Olivier who picked up 3/57.
With a miniscule lead of seven, the Knights quickly set about their second innings seeking to leave themselves enough time and the perhaps the Warriors a tempting target on the final day. They lost Luthando Mnyanda (6) and Keegan Petersen (2) early, but Grant Mokoena made 38 off just 36 balls to ensure the visitors rapidly built their lead.
* A draw, which will help neither team, seems the likeliest outcome in Paarl, where the Cape Cobras finished the third day of the match against the Titans on 393/3, thanks to an unbeaten 175 from Pieter Malan.
The Cobras still trail by 42 runs, and will have to make some rapid progress on Sunday morning and hope for a collapse by the Titans batting order if they are to force a win on what has been a pitch where scoring quickly’s been hard, but picking up wickets even harder.
Cobras opener, Malan, one of the form batsmen in the competition this season, was the hero on Saturday, compiling the 27th first class century of his career, as he batted through the day.
He struck 14 fours and one six in an ultra patient effort, where the scoring rate once more over the course of the innings was well below three runs an over. He shared an opening partnership of 163 with Andrew Puttick who was caught behind by Titans captain Heinrich Klaasen for 86 off the bowling of Alfie Mothoa.
Thereafter Malan shared partnerships of 46 runs for the second wicket with Zubayr Hamza (24) and Stiaan van Zyl (17), but with the scoring so slow, they could never be said to be dominant.
Kyle Verreynne, who finished the day unbeaten on 71, provided a more lasting partner, as he and Malan added an as yet unbeaten 140 for the fourth wicket.
It was another difficult day of toil for the bowlers, with leg-spinner Shaun von Berg getting through 44 overs without reward. Alfred Mothoa, Eldred Hawken and Tabraiz Shamsi each picked up a wicket, but that’s all the Titans could manage for 148 overs.
* Reeza Hendricks struck a wonderful hundred as the Highveld Lions fought back well on the third day of their match against the Dolphins.
The home side will resume on 221/4 on Sunday with Rassi van der Dussen on 14 and nightwatchman Beuran Hendricks on 4, a lead of 88.
One of three Hendricks’ in the Lions starting side (none of whom are related to one another), Reeza, perhaps inspired by fast bowler Beuran’s ‘five-for’ which saw the Dolphins bowled out for 379 in the morning, unfurled the full array of his shot-making talent to put the Lions in front.
His driving was crisp and elegant as he dominated an opening stand of 128 - the first century opening for the Lions in this season’s Sunfoil Series. Stephen Cook, who has struggled for form throughout the season, made 51, and was happy to just turn over the strike to Hendricks who was in full flow in an innings that while pleasing to watch, would also infuriate the many who would like to see him earn higher honours but realise he’s inhibited by inconsistency.
Saturday’s was just the 13th century of his first class career – in his 121st match – and he was eventually trapped lbw by Prenelan Subrayen for 112 off 182 balls hitting 15 fours.
His wicket came late in the day, with the Dolphins deserving plenty of credit for how hard they pushed in the final hour, employing first a short ball strategy that accounted for Omphile Ramela (37) and then spin from Subrayen and Senuran Muthusamy which got the wickets of Reeza Hendricks and then Dominic Hendricks (1), which still gives them a good chance of pushing for victory on Sunday.
Earlier Colin Savage made his maiden franchise hundred – off just 96 balls – to help the Dolphins secure an impressive haul of 5.58 bonus points for batting.