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Ken Borland



Like snogging a slobber-mouthed dog as Titans set up for win while title slips away 0

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Ken

Young JP King shone with the bat for North-West.

If a tie is like kissing your sister then winning your last game but seeing your trophy hopes disappear could be like snogging a slobber-mouthed dog. The Northerns Titans maybe felt a bit like that as they set themselves up for a comfortable victory over the North-West Dragons at Centurion, but had to accept that they can no longer win the first-class competition.

The KZN Dolphins have assured themselves of the CSA 4-Day Series title and R1.5 million in prizemoney, even if they lose to the Central Gauteng Lions in Potchefstroom, because the 8.58 bonus points they gathered in the first innings push their tally to 118.04, which none of the other teams can overtake.

The Titans also face a battle for second place and the R750 000 prizemoney because if the Eastern Province Warriors bowl Western Province, currently 129 for three, out for less than 339 on Wednesday then they will pip Northerns by 0.5 of a point. There is no prizemoney for finishing third.

Northerns made heavy weather of bowling North-West out for 360 on Tuesday, letting catches slip and bowling messily. That left them with a potentially awkward target of 190 for victory, but openers Neil Brand and Modiri Litheko did a great job of lifting spirits in the home changeroom with a dashing unbeaten stand of 53 before stumps.

The Titans were probably eyeing the spoils of victory before tea when they claimed three early wickets on the third morning to reduce North-West to 90 for four, still 81 behind.

But Senuran Muthusamy and JP King took advantage of the crisis to prove their mettle. Muthusamy showed why new Test coach Shukri Conrad rates him so highly as he made a determined 62 to go with the six wickets he took in the Northerns first innings, while King, playing just his second game at Division I level, defied the Titans for four hours.

King eventually fell to the natural away-swing of Matthew Boast with the second new ball, but his 92 was a great effort, and the 10 fours and a six he struck showed he has the strokes to go with the determination.

Once Muthusamy was dismissed though, bowled by an excellent yorker from Boast, to leave North-West on 207 for five, just 36 ahead, there was a general laxity to the Titans performance. Perhaps the news had reached them that they were no longer playing for the title, but one would hope a R750 000 prize would still be motivation enough.

The Dragons tail wagged with enthusiasm in response and they added another 153 runs to give themselves a chance of winning their first four-day match this season. Duan Jansen was again an obstacle with 30 and then Juan James, the concussion substitute for Khaya Cotani, who was struck on the head first ball by Junior Dala, lashed 37 off 35 balls and put on 39 for the ninth wicket with Lwandiswa Zuma (15).

Boast was the best of the Northerns bowlers, finishing with three for 62 in 19 overs.

The Titans would have been unhappy with having let North-West come back into the match, but Brand was solid as ever at the top of the order as he reached 17 not out at stumps, while Litheko was in a rush, racing to 29 not out as he banished the memory of scoring just four runs in his last three innings.

Lions guts

The Central Gauteng Lions showed plenty of guts on Tuesday as they fought back superbly on the third day of their CSA 4-Day Series match against the KZN Dolphins in Potchefstroom.

The Dolphins had been calling the tune until Tuesday as they scored 329 and then reduced the Lions to 171 for eight. But the Central Gauteng team began their fightback with some brilliant resistance with the bat, led by Malusi Siboto.

Coming to the wicket at a difficult 128 for six, Siboto was involved in important partnerships of 27 with Connor Esterhuizen (36), 16 with Lutho Sipamla (12) and 26 with Codi Yusuf (14). But at 197 for nine, the Lions still faced a deficit of 132.

But Siboto and 19-year-old Liam Alder, making his first-class debut, then added a defiant 62 for the last wicket, making the trophy-hunting Dolphins really fight for the final wicket.

Siboto ended with a marvellous 54 not out off 167 balls, while Alder eventually fell for 23 off 63 deliveries. The last pair had crucially reduced the Lions’ first-innings deficit to just 70.

The bowlers then did a great job maintaining the comeback vibe for the Lions with Siboto having both Tshepang Dithole and Keegan Petersen caught behind, and spinner Alder claiming the wicket of first-innings top-scorer Marques Ackerman for just 10 as the Dolphins slipped to 68 for four.

Khaya Zondo (65) and Jason Smith (59) then added 111 for the fifth wicket, but Evan Jones then showed some proper skills with the old ball as he ripped through the lower-order, taking five for 46 as the Dolphins crashed from 179 for four to 222 all out.

Set a target of 293 for victory, the Lions were in good condition at stumps as they reached 64 for one.

Thando Ntini drew first blood when Josh Richards was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw for just 2, but instead of venting his spleen, captain Dominic Hendricks went about setting a solid foundation with his 32 not out.

Kagiso Rapulana also looked adept at the crease as he went to 30 not out, he and Hendricks adding 49 as the Lions went to stumps on 64 for one.

Needing another 229 runs to win, the Lions have certainly impressed with the way they have stayed professional right until the final day of the season, even though they can no longer win the four-day title, the Dolphins having accrued too many bonus points in the first innings to be overtaken.

Newlands

The Eastern Province Warriors are pushing hard for second place as they set Western Province a target of 339 to win at Newlands, the home side reaching 129 for three at stumps.

Glenton Stuurman had Jonathan Bird caught behind for 5 early on, and then returned to claim the key wicket of Zubayr Hamza, bowling him for 51.

Stuurman had earlier top-scored for the Warriors with his 38 lifting them to 184 all out. Left-arm spinner George Linde was the destroyer-in-chief for Western Province, taking three for 25 in 13 overs.

Knights hammer Rocks

The final round’s other game has already been completed with the relegated Free State Knights hammering the Boland Rocks by nine wickets.

Despite a second-wicket partnership of 146 between Pieter Malan (86) and Clyde Fortuin (133), Boland were bowled out for 319 with 23-year-old slow left-armer Monde Maqunqu taking six for 82 in 26.4 overs.

Thanks to his efforts, the Knights were left needing just 39 for victory, with Pite van Biljon and Raynard van Tonder scoring those runs in half-a-dozen overs.

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