Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin netted him six wickets and put the Dolphins in a dominant position against the hapless Cobras at Newlands on Thursday.
His career-best return of 6-58 off just 15 overs, was backed up by some solid batting by the Dolphins openers, who put on 100 for the first wicket. The visitors, determined to make up lost ground after a stuttering start, ended the day on 158-2, a lead of two runs with eight wickets in hand.
The day belonged to the 25-year-old Maharaj, who took control once Richard Levi (12) and Stiaan van Zyl (4) had been removed by Daryn Dupavillon and Mathew Pillans respectively by the start of the seventh over.
The Cobras were 56-2 off 15 overs when Maharaj bowled Andrew Puttick for 21 with his first delivery that kicked sharply from outside the left-hander’s leg-stump. Anchored only by Omphile Ramela’s 48, and a stand of 40 by tailenders Dane Piedt (24) and Rory Kleinveldt (22), the Cobras lost eight wickets for 100 runs in 29 overs in a lamentable performance.
After doing everything right to claim their first win of the series against the Titans last weekend, and being denied a win previously by a last-wicket stand by the Knights, coach Paul Adams would have been thinking that his team had turned the corner. But it all unravelled embarrassingly, and on home ground, too.
Salt was rubbed into the wound when Imraan Khan and Divan van Wyk cruised along at four an over against as good an attack as the Cobras could muster.
Mthokozisi Shezi made the breakthrough when he trapped Imraan lbw for 58 (86 balls, 10×4), but Van Wyk added another 40 in partnership with Khaya Zondo before he was bowled by Rory Kleinveldt for 51.
The pace fell away after that, as Zondo (28) and Cody Chetty (11) cautiously saw out the day.
The Cobras will be hoping for early wickets on Friday: unless they can turn this match around, they look like falling from champs to chumps in one season.
The Dolphins, though, will have their focus on bonus points. Having picked up 5.16 so far, and another 50 overs available to harvest more, they could take second place, with three games to go, as they now sit just 10.26 behind the Titans.