The Highveld Lions surrendered all hopes of overhauling the Titans at the top of the Sunfoil log when they were bowled out for 68 by the lowly Warriors.
Stephen Cook’s men had to win this last match of the series with a bucketful of bonus points, if they were to make up the 12.62-points deficit. And they needed the Cobras to restrict the Titans‘ bonus points on their way to a win or draw.
But pacemen Sisanda Magala and Andrew Birch, taking advantage of conditions which prompted them to put the Lions in, utterly destroyed a powerful line-up.
Birch cracked open the top order, removing Cook for 12 and Rassie van der Dussen (0) before Magala was unleashed. He ended with 6-25 off 12.
Kagiso Rapulana (20), a North-West batsman on debut, and Nicky van den Bergh (16) were the top scorers, putting on 37 for the fifth wicket.
The Warriors, who picked up their first win of the series last week, beating the Knights in two days, ended the day on 171-4.
The Titans also struggled, being dismissed for 164 in Paarl after they, too, were sent in to bat. They have at least garnered 1.28 bonus batting points.
Only Henry Davids provided any resistance with a cavalier 74 off 96 balls (8×4, 1×6) as Wayne Parnell, following his brilliant 12-wicket haul last time out, continued his rampage, taking 5-62.
At the close, the Cobras were 172-5 with Omphile Ramela on 84. He had solid support from Cebo Tshiki, the Boland batsman who made his debut last time out, who fell three short of a deserved maiden fifty off 76 balls (6×4).
The Knights are the only team with a mathematical chance of catching the Titans, but their desperately needed haul of points has been held up by a stiff batting performance by the Dolphins, who ended day one on 203-3 after rain and bad light restricted the day to 73 overs.
For a while, the Knights might have been encouraged, reducing the Dolphins to 21-2, but Vaughn van Jaarsveld put an end to that with his 13th first-class hundred, ending on 116.
He had great support from Senuran Muthusamy, who was still there at the end on 69. The Dolphins closed on 203-3.