Hardus Viljoen sent the best possible message to the national selectors by taking 6-75 and helping to hold the Titans to 169-8 in their Sunfoil match in Potchestroom on Saturday.
Viljoen, released from the Proteas squad after one Test at the Wanderers, stepped up after Alviro Petersen’s double hundred gave the Lions a one-run advantage after the first innings.
Phumelela Matshikwe played a valuable and possibly match-winning innings, scoring 14 on Saturday morning. The important aspect was that he stayed there for 41 deliveries and over an hour, which enabled Petersen to get his double hundred and put the pressure back on the Titans.
Petersen was on 172 (and the score on 255-9) when play resumed, and he moved on to 203 off 252 balls, with 34 fours and two sixes, when he became Marchant de Lange’s fourth victim as he cut on the up for Junior Dala to take an easy catch at deep backward point.
Given that Matshikwe was the next best after Eddie Leie’s 17, and the Lions were on 145-8, it was a truly remarkable effort.
The Titans needed a solid reply, but once Dwaine Pretorius made the first breakthrough, it was Viljoen all the way, taking the next six wickets, including, eventually, Theunis de Bruyn and David Wiese with successive balls.
De Bruyn was the only batsman to withstand the early assault, scoring 62 off 90 balls (12×4), although Heino Kuhn (26) hung around long enough to help put on 67 for the second wicket. Bad light took out a large part of the day, but Farhaan Behardien dug in to end the day on 41 with the Titans leading by 168.
Omphile Ramela (60) and Justin Ontong (55) fought a good fight to get the Cobras out of a hole after they were asked to follow on 189 behind the Dolphins on Saturday.
If the Cobras thought they had turned the corner with their first, and well-worked 148-run win over the Warriors last week, they were rudely awakened when the Dolphins bowled them out for 216 in the first innings.
Ramela was the only batsman with backbone in that innings, but he added just 17 to his overnight score before being bowled by Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin for 89. Last man Dane Paterson also fell to his spin, giving him 5-62.
The Cobras openers, in their second effort, went with 41 on the board, and Ramela was back in action. At least he had Ontong to keep him company. They closed on 154-2, still 35 behind.
The Knights and the Warriors are engaged in an interesting arm-wrestle in East London. The Knights moved on from their overnight 192-5 to 270, thanks to Pite van Biljon who went from 55 overnight to fall four short of what would have been his 10th first-class hundred. Basheeru-Deen Walters dismissed Werner Coetsee in the second over of the day, and also broke Van Biljon’s heart to end with 3-42.
So, with the Knights holding just an 18-run advantage, it was in essence a one-innings match. Colin Ackermann (68) and Yaseen Vallie, unbeaten on 88, were the mainstays of the Warriors’ innings, but when stumps were drawn at 178-4, they had a lead of 160.