Stephen Cook became just the fourth batsman to score 10 000 runs in South African domestic first-class cricket as he led the bizhub Highveld Lions to a commanding position on the first day of their top-of-the-log Sunfoil Series match against the Unlimited Titans at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Thursday.
Cook showed great shot-selection and poise in reaching 108 not out before bad light stopped play at 4.15pm, with 25 overs still scheduled to be bowled, with the Lions on 264 for two.
It was a typically methodical innings by Cook, who in the process joined the illustrious trio of Graeme Pollock (12409), Peter Kirsten (11835) and his own father, Jimmy Cook (11307), in scoring 10 000 domestic first-class runs.
The Lions captain seldom looked threatened, but he did survive a chance on 32 when Heino Kuhn missed a catch at slip off left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe, who presumably aired his frustrations in the changeroom because it was the last ball before lunch.
The Lions had elected to bat first on a brownish, dry-looking pitch after winning the toss, and Rassie van der Dussen took the attack to the Titans bowlers as he breezed to an 84-ball half-century, the visitors going to lunch on 92 without loss.
Van der Dussen fell seven overs after the break, top-edging a hook at left-arm seamer Rowan Richards to fine-leg, where Junior Dala took a good running catch. Van der Dussen’s 65 off 109 deliveries had taken the Lions to 114 before the first wicket fell.
Cook went to his half-century soon afterwards and, with the Titans bowlers contriving to bowl on both sides of the wicket, and often too short, the Lions piled on 125 runs in 28 overs in the middle session, going to tea on 217 for one.
The Lions have high hopes for young Dominic Hendricks and he is starting to repay their faith this season, the left-hander scoring a dashing 63 off 87 balls to take his four-day average to 39 this season, with four half-centuries.
Hendricks hammered 11 fours and a six and added 115 off 158 balls with Cook for the second wicket, their partnership ending in the fifth over after tea when he pushed at a delivery outside off stump from Richards and Mangaliso Mosehle, the Titans wicketkeeper, dived to his left to take the catch.
Neil McKenzie (13*) then joined Cook and their partnership had already reached 35 when play was halted.
Down in Port Elizabeth, the Chevrolet Warriors’ capitulation to 203 all out was music to the ears of the struggling defending champions, the Nashua Cape Cobras.
Paceman Lizaad Williams and unorthodox spinner George Linde operated well in tandem as they shared six wickets and fast bowler Dane Paterson claimed two.
Richard Levi and Omphile Ramela then took the Cobras safely through to stumps on 11 without loss.
After the Cobras won the toss and bowled first, Paterson removed Michael Price for a duck in the first over and then had Jon-Jon Smuts caught behind for a single in the seventh over.
David White (38) and Ryan Bailey (37) added 43 for the third wicket, before Linde broke the partnership.
Simon Harmer dug in for 33 off 72 deliveries, but the Warriors only got to 203 thanks to a last-wicket stand of 53 between Sisanda Magala (32) and Basheer Walters (24*).
In Kimberley, Imraan Khan marked his recent return to the Sunfoil Dolphins line-up with his second successive century, scoring 127 to usher them to 251 for four against the Chevrolet Knights.
Divan van Wyk scored 57 as the Dolphins, who elected to bat first, put up a solid opening stand of 168.
Off-spinner Patrick Botha removed both openers, before the hostile Quinton Friend got busy with the second new ball and claimed two more wickets to give the Knights some late cheer.