A strong all-round bowling effort coupled with Marques Ackerman’s steady half-century helped the Dolphins guarantee themselves home advantage in the One-Day Cup semi-finals with a tense four-wicket win over the Lions in Durban on Thursday.
In what was a top-of-the-table clash at Kingsmead, the visitors were restricted to 244 all out after losing the toss and being put into bat first, with the log-leading hosts then chasing down that target with four balls to spare.
Seamer Okuhle Cele led the way with the ball, claiming two for 33, with doubles also for Robbie Frylinck (2/38) and Senuran Muthusamy (2/52).
Ackerman then struck a composed 54 off 65 balls (2 fours), helping the Dolphins to a key win that took them eight points clear at the summit with two matches to play.
Only the Lions (22) can still catch their 30 points, but they need to win two of their three remaining matches and hope Imraan Khan’s charges falter in the run-in.
The KwaZulu-Natal side, who have now won seven out of eight matches, made a good start to the game by reducing their opponents to 40 for three, before a fine Wihan Lubbe-lead recovery.
Two of those early wickets were claimed by the excellent Cele, but it was then the Lions that hit back through a 93-run fourth-wicket stand.
Lubbe was at the heart of it with a career-best 85 (91 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes) and Nicky van den Bergh (42) provided solid support.
Delano Potgieter (23) then ensured that the away side continued to build after the stand was broken, and with the 200 raised in the 41st over and the score on 200 for five, 300 looked on for Wandile Gwavu’s charges.
But their lengthy tail was then exposed by the Dolphins as they lost the last five wickets for 30.
That left 245 to get and 36 from Sarel Erwee up front added to Ackerman’s exploits allowed the Dolphins to overcome some early setbacks to reach 159 for three.
After the latter departed, Khaya Zondo (41) kept the run-rate under control, although the home side did hit a blip when their set men fell in a heap leaving them suddenly on 176 for six.
But the ever-reliable Frylinck (28 not out) and Muthusamy (43 not out) completed the job with an excellent 72-run unbeaten seventh-wicket stand that carried their side over the line with just over an over to spare.
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