• Ontong, Roelof, Rabada shine

    Justin Ontong, Roelof van der Merwe and Kagiso Rabada led the charge for the Cobras, Titans and Lions respectively – on day one of this week’s round of Sunfoil Series fixtures.

    Ontong blunts Dolphins

    Justin Ontong led from the front as the Cape Cobras put in one of the most dominant days of batting by any team in the current Sunfoil Series campaign, to leave the Dolphins reeling at the City Oval.

    Ontong finished unbeaten on 150 from 199 balls as the Cobras amassed 440 for four from the day’s 96 overs – despite being asked to bat by the Dolphins. Such positivity translated into 6.8 batting points on the day, which could go some way to ensuring that last season’s champions avoid the wooden spoon.

    While Ontong’s first century of the campaign naturally caught the eye, he will no doubt point to the solid base set up by openers Andrew Puttick and Matthew Kleinveldt, who didn’t take long to get on top of the Dolphins bowlers. Puttick scored freely, with his 75 in a partnership of 131 coming off just 94 balls, while Kleinveldt applied a more patient touch in stroking 97.

    The Dolphins made three major changes to their attack, with Daryn Dupavillon and Matthew Pillans enjoying a much-needed rest, and young pacers Graham Hume and Craig Kirsten coming in to be led by Ryan McLaren, who played his first game since 10 February. The new combination did not work out as hoped, but Keshav Maharaj continued his good form to pick up three of the four wickets that fell.

    The left-arm spinner broke the initial stand when he had Puttick caught behind, and later dismissed Kleinveldt and Dane Vilas in the space of four balls. Although McLaren bowled last week’s double-centurion, Omphile Ramela, for just 14, Kleinveldt and Ontong put on 166 for the third wicket in just 37 overs.

    Yet the quickest partnership was still to come, as Ontong and Justin Kemp added 104 runs in the last 22 overs of the day to press home the Cobras’ advantage. Kemp went to the close unbeaten on 57 from just 67 balls, having hit two sixes and nine fours, meaning that all but nine of his runs came from boundaries.

    Rabada rocks Warriors

    Kagiso Rabada stormed to the top of the Sunfoil Series wicket-taking charts as the Lions put the Warriors on the back foot on a rain-shortened first day at the Wanderers.

    Although the weather wiped out the first session, Rabada’s four-wicket haul ensured that the Lions made excellent progress on the day, reducing the Warriors to 193 for eight in the 63 overs that were possible. An initial six-over spell from Rabada yielded two wickets and left the visitors 30 for three from 11 overs after they had been inserted by the Lions, while a later spell brought another brace and sparked a second Warriors collapse.

    The only bright patch for the Warriors came in between those spells, as Colin Ackermann (50) and Colin Ingram (39) exercised impressive patience in rebuilding the innings, putting on 70 for the fourth wicket in 28 overs. Rabada crushed that revival when he had Ingram caught behind by Dominic Hendricks, who took the gloves in the absence of the injured Thami Tsolekile, and then trapped Darryl Brown lbw four overs later.

    Chris Morris (2 for 43) and Dwaine Pretorius struck two further blows for the Lions, before Simon Harmer (35 not out) and Sisanda Magala (12 not out) kept the innings going until bad light halted play. Rabada ended the day with figures of 4 for 39 to take his season tally to 38 wickets – three more than Dane Paterson and Andrew Birch, with three days of the season still to be played.

    Van der Merwe stifles Knights

    Roelof van der Merwe returned to form with an aggressive 89 to help the Titans make the most of a rain-affected first day of Sunfoil Series action against the Knights in Centurion.

    Van der Merwe was one of the standout performers with the bat in the early stages of the competition, but had not crossed 20 in any of his last three matches. On Thursday he ensured a strong end to the season when he hit three sixes and 12 fours in a 98-ball innings, giving the Titans a boost on their way to a total of 274 for four in just 67 overs.

    Equally helpful was Henry Davids’ third straight half-century, as the Titans captain played the less glamorous role of anchoring the innings with an unbeaten 86. Morning rain meant that no play was possible until after lunch, but the Titans were still confident enough in the conditions to elect to bat first, and barring a minor wobble they dominated throughout.

    Theunis de Bruyn made a brisk start as he returned to the opening slot in the absence of Dean Elgar, as the Titans took 65 off the first 16 overs before Kyllin Vardhan was run out for 16. De Bruyn fell six overs later when he was bowled for 56 by Shadley van Schalkwyk, and when Graeme van Buuren was dismissed by Malusi Siboto for just 12, the Titans were looking a little unsteady at 110 for three.

    However, Davids and Van der Merwe took control as they put on 150 for the fourth wicket in under 30 overs, which helped the Titans make up for the time lost to rain. Van der Merwe missed out on a hundred when he was caught behind off the bowling of Siboto, but Davids pushed through to the close of play with Qaasim Adams (two not out) for company.

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