Smash­ing Smith can’t ease Co­bras’ troubles

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ASH­FAK MO­HAMED

DE­SPITE a sen­sa­tional maiden fran­chise hun­dred by Ja­son Smith, the Cape Co­bras’ bat­ting form again de­serted them on the fi­nal day of Sun­foil Se­ries ac­tion against the Knights in Bloem­fontein yes­ter­day.

Smith, who cel­e­brated his 22nd birth­day on Tues­day, smashed an un­beaten 100, but didn’t stop the Knights from fin­ish­ing off the vis­i­tors yes­ter­day. In- form pace­man Marchant de Lange took six wick­ets to wrap up a con­vinc­ing 175- run vic­tory at the Man­gaung Oval.

The Cape side had hope of pulling off what would’ve been a re­mark­able vic­tory at the start of day four, with Zubayr Hamza on 52 and Sti­aan van Zyl on five as the Co­bras re­sumed on 127/2 off 25 overs, still 317 in ar­rears.

But for coach Paul Adams and his team to get close, they needed their overnight bats­men to kick on and bat for most of the first ses­sion. How­ever, Van Zyl was first to fall in the sec­ond over when De Lange got go­ing, with Duanne Olivier tak­ing the catch.

Smith joined Hamza and it seemed as if the rookie pair were go­ing along nicely as they put on 28 runs. But dis­as­ter struck as the lat­ter – hav­ing moved on to 68 off 94 balls (12x4) – was dis­missed by Shadley van Schalk­wyk, with wick­et­keeper Rudi Sec­ond tak­ing the catch.

The Co­bras’ last se­nior fig­ure, Dane Vi­las, walked out at 161/4, still a long way from the 444 re­quired for vic­tory. But he didn’t last long as De Lange landed a dou­ble blow, get­ting rid of the Co­bras glove­man for one and Aviwe Mgi­jima for two within four balls.

Dane Piedt hung around for over an hour, though, and that al­lowed Smith to take on the bowl­ing.

And the for­mer SA Un­der19 all- rounder didn’t dis­ap­point, hit­ting Olivier for three fours in an over to go to his 50 off 53 balls, while he also dis­patched vet­eran lef­t­armer Robin Peter­son for a six and three fur­ther bound­aries.

Their sev­enth-wicket stand yielded 82 in just over 16 overs, but Piedt’s 71- minute vigil ended on 18 by Mbulelo Bu­daza, with Sec­ond tak­ing his third catch of the in­nings.

All that was left for the Co­bras was to see whether Smith could reach his three fig­ures, as he was on 80 not out with just the bowlers to come.

He was nearly stranded as De Lange cleaned up Beu­ran Hen­dricks (one) and Tshepo Moreki for a duck, but took mat­ters into his own hands as he slammed De Lange for four bound­aries in the 59th over to bring up his hun­dred off just 88 balls (17x4, 1x6).

Sure enough, Bu­daza ended pro­ceed­ings in the next over by hav­ing Dane Pater­son caught for one, while De Lange fin­ished with 6/61 in 18 overs as the Knights won their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game. They claimed 18.84 points, with the Co­bras get­ting 6.82.

While the bat­ting was an im­prove­ment on last week’s per­for­mance against the Highveld Li­ons, the Co­bras top-or­der have to score more if they hope to be com­pet­i­tive.

Cap­tain Om­phile Ramela has yet to get go­ing in his new role as an opener, while Van Zyl made 83 in the first in­nings in Bloem­fontein.

They will have a week to work on their game be­fore host­ing the War­riors at New­lands next Thurs­day, where they will be with­out Vi­las, who is part of the Proteas squad that leaves to­mor­row for the Test tour of Aus­tralia.

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