Knights seeing daylight
Now fancied to win Sunfoil Series
ON THE second day of championship weekend in the Sunfoil Series yesterday, there were substantial strides made in the north of the country as the fate of the title slipped from Pretoria towards Bloemfontein.
In Joburg, the most significant strides of the day were made by the Knights, a team that had made most of the running during the course of the four-day season. After the penultimate round of fixtures, they looked to have fallen a hurdle short of securing silverware, but a belligerent batting display has put the boys from Bloem in a very strong position.
Their first innings was eventually closed on 443, scored at a rate of over four runs to the over. Pite van Biljon’s century and urgent contributions from skipper Theunis de Bruyn (72) and Diego Rosier (60) meant that the Knights also bought themselves time in the game.
The bowlers, no doubt galvanised by what they had seen on day one, then followed up with a performance that was forthright and decisive, as they blew away the startled Lions for just 87 runs. Marchant de Lange (3/17) set the tone, but Duanne Olivier, Shadley van Schalkwyk and Mbulelo Budaza all chipped in with two scalps apiece, to send a strong message across to Benoni.
There, the Titans were in the midst of an almighty scrap, as they battled to a first innings lead of sorts, their 227 giving them a 40-run buffer on the Warriors. Of course, they would have been chuffed to get ahead of the battle in Benoni, but their real war is national, and they will not have slept easy last night, knowing that the Knights are tucking into the Lions up the road.
The Warriors’ second dig saw them move to a gritty 95/2, effectively 55/2 in the overall scheme of things.
While runs and wickets were eked out in Benoni, the Cobras and the Dolphins had their own ding-dong going, though it increasingly looks as if it is for pride only. The Cobras, with a total of 381, have a lead of 144 on the home side, who reached midway in the match on 237/6. Daryn Smit, with a defiant 95 not out in his final four-day match for his beloved franchise, holds the key for the coastal dwellers, as they try to narrow the deficit. Earlier in the piece, Senuran Muthusamy, the top-order bat with ever-improving left-arm spin in his bag, helped himself to a maiden five-wicket haul, finishing off the Cobras tail.
In response, the Dolphins never quite got going, but Smit dug in, as he has so often done over his decade and more at the Dolphins, defying a nagging Rory Kleinveldt (2/41) and the promising Jason Smith (2/37).
Despite the drama elsewhere in the country, there is one young man who is in charge of the destiny of the premier competition in South African cricket.
Of course, De Bruyn invited the Lions to try again with the bat at the Wanderers, and he would have been chuffed to go to bed with five more wickets in the bag, and with the scent of victory thick in the Gauteng air. The Lions reached 187/5 in their second dig, most of that down to an attacking 112 by the classy Reeza Hendricks.
The Knights, with a bag full of bonus points from the first innings, and the determination of a young side proving a point to those who doubted their nerve, will take some stopping now. Advantage, emphatically, Bloemfontein.