With the sun shining brightly, the umpires took the reluctant players off the field at 5.30pm, the usual time for close of play, despite the fact that nearly three hours of play had been washed out by heavy thundershowers in the early afternoon.
So there was no effort to extend the hours of play by half-an-hour, the reason given to the players being that the allotted overs for the day had been bowled. Which doesn’t make sense because only 64 overs were actually bowled on the second day.
The Titans had moved to 27 without loss in the six overs they had to face before stumps, Jacques Rudolph showing that he is not ready to be pensioned off just yet as he cruised to 18 not out with four fours. Heino Kuhn was with him on seven not out.
Geoff Toyana is a coach who prefers to err on the side of positivity and the Lions had declared at 4.50pm on 485 for seven declared, thinking that they would get a good hour to bowl at the Titans, before the early close left them bemused and frustrated.
They managed to post that score thanks to the efforts of Dwaine Pretorius and Dale Deeb, who added 137 for the seventh wicket in 140 minutes and 239 balls, and regained control for the Lions after the Titans had struck hard with the second new ball.
Captain Stephen Cook and Neil McKenzie had resumed on 264 for two and quickly rattled up a fifty partnership off just 54 balls, but then JP de Villiers, bowling at good pace and enjoying some movement, took three wickets in five deliveries as the Lions crashed from 311 for two to 313 for six.
McKenzie was the first to go, playing around a straight ball from De Villiers and being trapped lbw for 47, and the 25-year-old seamer then dismissed Gulam Bodi (1) and Thami Tsolekile (0) with successive deliveries in his next over.
Cook, elegant on the drive but measured in all his strokeplay, had chugged along to 122 in 379 minutes, off 241 balls, when he flicked at a leg-side delivery from left-arm paceman Rowan Richards and wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle flung himself far to his left to take a superb catch.
Pretorius and Deeb batted with admirable good sense though, but neither did they allow any scoring opportunity to pass, and by lunch they had brought up their fifty partnership off 65 balls.
One can probably put money on Pretorius being named the Lions’ most improved cricketer at the end of this season and his plucky 67 took his batting average to 39, to go with a bowling average of 15. He fell, however, in the 10th over after the rain delay as he forgot the rule that you can’t cut left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe off the stumps and was bowled by the arm-ball.
Deeb added some more quick runs, finishing with a well-struck 89 not out, including seven fours and a six, before the Lions declared in order to try and buy themselves some time to push for victory on a flat pitch.
De Villiers was the most impressive of the Titans bowlers, with three for 75 in 18 overs. Richards also claimed three wickets, but his control was disappointing as he conceded 118 runs in 26 overs.
If the Titans manage to bat for most of Saturday’s third day, then you can’t see any other result than a draw at Willowmoore Park, despite their improved drainage.
*Batsmen were not loving the conditions on a rain-interrupted day at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, with the Nashua Cape Cobras struggling on 137 for seven in reply to the Chevrolet Warriors’ 203 all out.
The Warriors’ opening bowlers – Andrew Birch and Basheer Walters – had done most of the damage with two wickets each, and the defending champions lost the mainstay of their innings, opener Omphile Ramela, in the last over of the day.
Ramela had defied the bowlers for 229 minutes and 146 balls in scoring 45, before Walters had him caught in the slips.
The run out of Yaseen Vallie (6) saw the Cobras plunge to 35 for three, before the middle-order rallied. But the Warriors kept chipping away and the wickets of Dane Vilas (15), Sybrand Engelbrecht (26) and Justin Kemp (19) were the reward.
*Cody Chetty stood tall in Kimberley as his century put the Sunfoil Dolphins in a commanding position against the Chevrolet Knights.
Chetty scored 101 not out, sharing in a fifth-wicket partnership of 97 with Khaya Zondo (51), to steer the Dolphins from their overnight score of 251 for four to 452 all out.
The Knights found batting a stiff ask against a fired-up, new-look Dolphins pace attack, struggling to 128 for four at stumps.
Openers Lefa Mosena (46) and Gerhardt Abrahams (34) seemed to be reading the conditions well as they added 61 for the first wicket, but Abrahams was caught behind off Graham Hume and Mosena was caught in the slips off Mathew Pillans.
Fast bowler Daryn Dupavillon then rushed through Diego Rosier (20) and Malusi Siboto (0) in successive balls to put the Dolphins firmly on top.
Off-spinner Patrick Botha is the one Knights player who can feel bullish about his efforts, the 24-year-old patiently whirling away for 28.5 overs and picking up a career-best seven for 89 to start the new year in great fashion.
Quinton Friend may be 32-years-old, but he is still quite a handful, the paceman taking three for 58 in 28 overs.