The bizhub Highveld Lions put in a stellar performance over the weekend in the Sunfoil Series and it was only the intervention of bad weather that prevented them from taking a near-unassailable lead at the top of the four-day competition’s log.
The wonderful efforts of their four-prong pace attack and centuries by the prolific Stephen Cook and Temba Bavuma gave the Lions firm control of their match against the Chevrolet Warriors in East London and, with Hardus Viljoen taking five wickets and Chris Morris three in the second innings, they were left with a victory target of just 98.
Unfortunately for the Lions, only 21 overs were able to be bowled before bad light stopped play with them on 81 for four.
“It was disappointing, I really thought we were going to get the win,” coach Geoff Toyana told The Citizen on Monday. “It was getting dark when we bowled the Warriors out, so we knew we wouldn’t get 33 overs in. The batsmen tried their best but Andrew Birch (9-3-13-4) bowled very well and made it tough for us.
“The Warriors were taking seven or eight minutes an over, but we still thought we’d get a couple more in.”
The Lions were also hindered by the Warriors tail, with the last three batsmen – Birch, Sisanda Magala and Basheer Walters – adding 67 runs in 15 overs, but overall Toyana was happy as his team still sits 19.22 points ahead of the Titans on the log.
“The Dolphins were also very unfortunate to have to settle for a draw and these things happen, they’re not in your control. But I’m very happy that Hardus, Chris and Kagiso Rabada are all performing well together and Stephen Cook has now scored four hundreds in a row to put us where we are. He’s a quality opener, he’s batted there all his life, he knows his game and he’s been averaging over 40 for 10 seasons.
“The national selectors want to convert middle-order batsmen into openers, but I’m surprised Stephen hasn’t had a look in, he should be in the mix,” Toyana said.
The Unlimited Titans were also frustrated by the Nashua Cape Cobras’ tail in Paarl, the home side recovering from 198 for eight to 308 in their first innings and then bowling the visitors out for 175, thanks to Mthokozisi Shezi’s brilliant six for 51.
The Titans, set 475 to win after a quickfire Dane Vilas century, were eventually beaten by 170 runs, but the fact that the Lions were held to a draw meant they only lost a little ground on the log.
“We should have closed down their first innings quicker and you can’t really win after being 133 behind on first innings, unless something dramatic happens. But we got a bit lucky with the other two draws , which are pretty much worth the same as a loss.
“We’ve slipped back a bit, but not drastically, and if we can win two out of our last three games, and the Lions draw a couple, then we can win the title,” coach Rob Walter said.
Those who attended the final day of the match between the Sunfoil Dolphins and the Chevrolet Knights at Kingsmead enjoyed a nailbiting finish as the visitors’ last pair of Malusi Siboto and Quinton Friend survived for 53 minutes before bad light stopped play.
Paceman Mathew Pillans, with match figures of 10 for 129, and the Van Wyk brothers – Divan scored 171 and Morne 103 not out – were the stars of the show for the Dolphins.