The Lions and the Cape Cobras will see their opening 4-Day Franchise Series encounter go down to the wire after 21 wickets went down on another epic day at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on Tuesday.
The match went to stumps at halfway on day two with the hosts one wicket away from victory and the visitors 15 runs shy of what would be a bizarre win in a match that saw 18 wickets tumble on day one.
The locals had set a target of 206 after being bowled out for 119 in their second innings, with the Cape side reaching the close on 191 for nine.
The key role players on the second day were George Linde with a career-best 7-64, Kyle Verreynne for his attacking 50 off 64 balls (7 fours) and Aviwe Mgijima, unbeaten on 23 and with the fate of the match resting on his shoulders.
The performance of the trio has allowed the Cobras to stay alive in the contest despite a dire first-innings batting display that had them dismantled for 129.
There were some important performances too for the defending champion Lions, not least a quick-fire 41 off 37 by Proteas all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius and 4-15 by the tireless Malusi Siboto.
The day had started with the Cobras batting in their first innings on 106-8, with Jason Smith managing to move from his 54 not out overnight to finish unbeaten on 68 (151 balls, 6 fours).
Bjorn Fortuin (4-34) struck twice to claim the final wickets of the innings, leaving the home side with a first-innings advantage of 86.
But that lead was not extended sufficiently after Linde ran riot with his ninth career five-for.
After Nandre Burger (1-8) made the initial breakthrough, the Lions threatened to claw their way back through Reeza Hendricks (27) and Kagiso Rapulana (29) who took them to 50-2.
However, the slow left-armer then made merry by striking regularly – with only Pretorius’ boundary hitting helping the home side take their lead beyond the 200 mark.
The Cobras then battled to find any momentum in their innings until half the team was out. They fell to 52-5 with only Janneman Malan (26) managing double figures among the top five and Siboto doing the early damage.
Verreynne and Matthew Kleinveldt (19) gave them hope with a 64-run sixth-wicket stand, but again they were undone by a spurt of wickets that was halted when Burger (21) offered support for Mgijima.
At 182-7, it looked like the Cobras had done just about enough, but more drama followed when Fortuin (2-45) and Aaron Phangiso (2-56) dismissed Burger and then Dane Paterson (8).
Tladi Bokako saw off the one ball he faced, leaving the ball in the court of Mgijima when day three resumes on Wednesday.
Photo: Gallo Images