An enticing day of action in the 4-Day Franchise Series has taken the season down to the final day, with the Cape Cobras and Highveld Lions both needing to bowl their opponents out as they battle for the title.
Dolphins vs Cobras
A magical double hundred by Zubayr Hamza lit up the penultimate day of the decisive 4-Day encounter between the Dolphins and the table-topping Cape Cobras in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
The young right-hander recorded 201 (342 balls, 20×4, 1×6) as the visiting side amassed 523 for seven declared, before the hosts reached 66 for none – still trailing by 147 runs – when bad light ended play with more than 20 overs still remaining.
It was a superb effort from Hamza, his maiden double at franchise level and the second of his first-class career, as his side claimed enough bonus points to ensure they were ahead of title rivals the Highveld Lions heading into the final day of the four-day campaign.
The Cape side will now know that the least they need to do on day four is match the result of their Gauteng rivals, who are playing the Warriors in Potchefstroom, in order to clinch the title.
And they showed good intent from the start of three, which they resumed on 245 for three with Hamza on 104, alongside Kyle Verreynne (41). The pair stretched their partnership to 176 for the fourth wicket, before the latter was disappointingly run out for 88 (167 balls, 7×4).
However, Aviwe Mgijima made up for that loss by striking 61 (94 balls, 6×4) as he and Hamza put on a further 95 for wicket number six, with George Linde (20), Vernon Philander (21 not out) and Dane Paterson (30 not out) all playing their part to help the Cobras establish a 213-run lead.
Keshav Maharaj sent down a whopping 56 overs for the most successful figures of two for 217.
It was then down to the home batsmen, and they did not wilt under pressure thanks to Vaughn van Jaarsveld (19) and Michael Erlank (46) – the pair taking their side to stumps with all 10 wickets intact.
Dolphins 310 (VB van Jaarsveld 120, MN Erlank 50, S Muthusamy 36, K Zondo 25, MJ Ackerman 23, KA Maharaj 20; VD Philander 4-46, GF Linde 4-62, D Paterson 1-75, DL Piedt 1-99) & 66-0 (MN Erlank 46 not out)
Cape Cobras 523-7 decl (Zubayr Hamza 201, K Verreynne 88, A Mgijima 61, PJ Malan 44, DG Bedingham 37; KA Maharaj 2-217)
Dolphins trail by 147 runs with 10 second-innings wickets in hand
Lions vs Warriors
Kagiso Rapulana continued his rich run of form with a day three century that helped put the Highveld Lions in charge in their must-win final-round 4-Day encounter against the Warriors in Potchefstroom on Wednesday.
The right-hander was unbeaten on 114 (166 balls, 10×4) at the close – his second successive century and fourth overall – with the hosts ending proceedings on 292 for nine at Senwes Park. That gave them a lead of 329. They will need to attack the visitors from the outset to try and get the win they desperately need, and that might bring with it the title.
After the bonus-point scenario was settled earlier on day three with the log-leading Cape Cobras ahead on the table, it means that the Lions have to win and hope the side they are chasing either draws or lose their match against the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg.
The Johannesburg-based side did their best to press for victory on another thrilling day of first-class cricket in the North West. They began the day in the field, looking for four wickets of the Warriors, who managed to move from their overnight 314 for six to 403 all out.
This was thanks to a maiden franchise half-century from Thomas Kaber – the all-rounder finishing with a top score of 85 (163 balls, 10×4, 1×6).
There was also 66 (145 balls, 10×4) from Sisanda Magala, while debutant Delano Potgieter (4-81) and Malusi Siboto (4-91) ended with four wickets apiece.
The Lions made a solid start to their reply, thanks to Stephen Cook (28) and Dominic Hendricks (30), but three quick wickets for another debutant, Sithembile Langa, saw them slip to 80 for three.
Temba Bavuma’s quick-fire 48 off 46 balls then got the hosts moving as he shared in an 81-run stand with Rapulana, who later found more support from Potgieter (28) to ensure there was a strong finish to the day.
Langa was the pick of the bowlers, thanks to his career-best five for 61.
Lions 440 (BC Fortuin 183, D Potgieter 145, K Rapulana 34, T Bavuma 22, SC Cook 21; GA Stuurman 5-110, SSB Magala 3-101, S Langa 2-70) & 292-9 (K Rapulana
114 not out, T Bavuma 48, DA Hendricks 30; S Langa 5-61, SSB Magala 2-33)
Warriors 403 (S Qeshile 76, SSB Magala 59 not out, TP Kaber 38 not out, EM Moore 36, M Marais 33, MP Breetzke 30; D Potgieter 4-54, MP Siboto 1-59, BC Fortuin 1-65)
Lions lead by 329 runs with 1 second-innings wickets in hand
Titans vs Knights
More outfield problems meant there was further disappointment for the Titans and the Knights as the third day of their 4-Day clash at Willowmoore Park in Benoni was abandoned on Wednesday.
A wet outfield was the initial problem for the teams on day one, before umpires Abdoellah Steenkamp and Johan Cloete were also not happy with underfoot conditions in the bowling run-up area.
And with slim chances of the ground staff improving things, the officials opted to end the waiting and call the day off early once more. The final day is scheduled to begin at 9.30am on Thursday.
Photo: Cricket South Africa