Lions, Dolphins call a truce at the Oval
Neither side pushed the envelope and tried to force victory after rain had ruined two days of the Sunfoil Series clash
MERCIFULLY, just after 4pm, the Lions and the Dolphins both surrendered hope in a contest that had long petered out into an exercise in time-killing, and called their Sunfoil Series match in Maritzburg a truce.
After two days of weather disruptions had taken out a chunk of playing time, yesterday saw a return of glorious blue skies, and a feint chance of somebody going for the jugular. The Dolphins initially looked as if they may throw caution to the wind, but changed their tune when the in-form Vaughn van Jaarsveld holed out to long-on for 25, they retreated back into their shell at 47/3.
Khaya Zondo, added to his unbeaten century in the first innings with 54 in the second dig, as he solidified the Dolphins ship and sealed a Man of the Match award. He got handy support from Sibonelo Makhanya 27, Morne van Wyk 28, before a gung-ho Keshav Maharaj blitzed 26 off 14 balls, with the declaration on the horizon.
Beuran Hendricks took three wickets for the visitors, but he is still short of the fitness or pace that saw him become a national player a few seasons back. The Lions, and his actual employers – the Cobras – by extension, will be pleased to see him get through a solid workload.
The Dolphins eventually closed their innings on 189/6, for a lead of 261, and 51 overs left in the day to try and bowl out the Lions.
In the bigger picture, it was as big a carrot as they could dangle, especially as the Lions are still close enough to them to be a factor in the race for the four-day title.
The Lions’ biggest threat was always going to be Maharaj, whose six-wicket haul in the first innings was still fresh in the mind. It was no surprise that he got the only wicket to fall, as he got through the defences of Stephen Cook again, and trapped him leg-before for 10.
Rassi van der Dussen, who opened with Cook, started promisingly, but eventually settled into the more sedate rhythm of the Lions’ innings, ending on 38 not out. The lanky opener had earlier hooked Rabian Engelbrecht’s new ball high into the bank for a mighty six.
A silky straight drive suggested that Van der Dussen was in the mood, but that was as forceful as it ever got from the visitors. Maharaj kept asking questions, and had Dominic Hendricks dropped at the wicket after tea.
But, as the shadows started to lengthen, the Lions’ batting became more obdurate, and the writing became clearer on the wall.
The Dolphins stretched their lead to 7.90 points at the top of the standings, but they have played a game more than their rivals, such as the Knights and the Titans. Both the Lions and the Dolphins have a break next week, before the KZN outfit returns to Maritzburg, to host the Titans.
A result in that match will be pivotal, as it will be the penultimate round of fixtures.
The Dolphins will hope for better weather and, perhaps, a more enterprising mindset from an opposition that will likely be chasing the title, too.