DURBAN – The Warriors secured the first win of the second half of the Sunfoil Series on Saturday as their frenetic clash against the Lions ended well inside the third day at Buffalo Park in East London.
Ultimately, the hosts finished off the visitors for just 131, registering a remarkable 29-run victory in the process.
The Lions had entered the final day hopeful of reaching their target of 161, but the low-scoring that has plagued the match held true for the final innings.
Skipper Stephen Cook had fallen on the second evening, so the Lions’ hopes rested squarely on the shoulders of first-innings top-scorer Rassie van der Dussen.
The lanky Van der Dussen again stood out with a stern 40, but he was powerless against a varied and persistent Warriors attack.
Simon Harmer, who opened the bowling – emphasising the low and slow nature of the pitch – added another three scalps to his first innings haul of three, but it was Tladi Bokako who stole the headlines for the Eastern Cape outfit.
The seamer helped himself to 4/15 in just 11 overs as he persisted with a full and straight line.
Nono Pongolo added a dogged 20 to his 24 in the first dig, but he was powerless to stop the Warriors.
A fine 4/15 by Tladi Bokako has bowled @WarriorsCrickEC to an outstanding 29-run #SunfoilSeries win over @HighveldLions on day 3 of their round 6 clash in East London. Chasing 161 for victory, the visitors were dismissed for 131 pic.twitter.com/uKXfyDDhku
Pongolo was last man out to skipper JJ Smuts to spark an equal measure of relief and elation in the home dressing-room.
In Bloemfontein meanwhile, Sarel Erwee continued his dominant season with a terrific 108 not out to hold up the Knights seemingly certain charge to victory.
Having been forced to follow on after capitulating to 237 all out, the Dolphins made a better fist of it second time around.
Erwee – who has plundered for the Dolphins in all formats this season – raised 166 with opening partner Morné van Wyk.
The veteran former Knights star had reached 58 off 216 balls when he and his partner were involved in yet another run out.
Van Wyk’s departure saw Vaughn van Jaarsveld come to the crease, and he saw Erwee through to his century.
It took the left-hander 210 balls to get there, but it was the near five hours that mattered more to the Durbanites.
The Dolphins still trail by 54 runs, but they have a further nine wickets in the bag and a day to salvage an unlikely draw against the defending champions in Bloemfontein.
Erwee, on 108, will be looking to add considerably to that on the final day.
In Benoni, the Titans and the Cobras look headed for a stalemate as both teams refuse to budge.
The men from Cape Town hold a slight advantage given their 82-run lead after the first innings, but they will struggle to manufacture a result against the log-leaders.
The Titans, who entered day three on 168/3, were bowled out for 346 thanks to a debut half-century for Rivaldo Moonsamy and yet another vital contribution from Heino Kuhn.
Moonsamy, making his franchise four-day bow, notched a promising 76 from 135 balls, studding his knock with 11 boundaries.
346 ALL OUT! The last two wickets fall in the space of as many overs as Siboto edges Piedt behind for a fighting 38. Richards remains unbeaten on 4. The hosts end the 1st innings 82 runs in arrears.
Bad light has delayed the start of the 2nd innings #TTNvCOB #SunfoilSeries pic.twitter.com/ldir3aGAvj
Given his fluency at the crease, he would have been gutted not to go on and register a debut century for the Titans.
He and Kuhn fell the same way, caught behind off Lizaad Williams, who ended with figures of 3/76.
Skipper Dane Piedt, who had helped himself to the first three scalps in the Titans innings, got one more to finish with 4/81 from 28.4 overs.
The Titans tail also wagged, with Malusi Siboto chipping in with a responsible 38, Eldred Hawken a fluent 20, and Junior Dala a steady 19 to inch the hosts closer to the Cobras total of 428.
On the final day, the men from the Cape will have to decide where the match goes.