Lions qualify after fourth consecutive win
The Lions became the first team to qualify for the MTN40 semi-finals, after winning their fourth consecutive match in the competition. It's a remarkable turnaround from a franchise who, for the past three seasons, have been underachievers in every format. That tag seems to have been transferred to the Cobras, who have lost five out of five matches in the tournament.
On Wednesday, they went down to the Knights by three wickets in Kimberley. The Cobras batted first and posted a solid 235 for 6. Andrew Puttick (71 off 76 balls) and Stiaan van Zyl (39 off 42 balls) shared a first-wicket partnership of 74, setting their side up well. Owais Shah (83 off 78 balls) was the other big contributor but received little support from the rest of the middle order. Con de Lange (0 for 27) and Dillon du Preez (2 for 39) did a good containing job for the Knights.
The Free Staters' chase went according to plan and they appeared well on track throughout their innings. Reeza Hendricks (56 off 68 balls) and Rilee Rossouw (46 off 26 balls) laid the foundation for the win. Ryan McLaren (55* off 51 balls) marshalled the middle and lower order to a victory with 10 balls to spare.
Matters got worse for the men from the Cape on Friday. They lost to the Titans by two wickets in a low-scoring encounter in Centurion. It was a disastrous batting performance which saw them all out for 135. There was just one score over 20. That came from Puttick (46 off 74 balls). Ethy Mbhalati's (3 for 21) sensational season continued and Albie Morkel (2 for 41), Roelof van der Merwe (2 for 23) and Mario Olivier (2 for 13) each picked up two scalps.
The Titans made hard work of their reply. They slipped to 58 for 4 in the 14th over. Charl Langeveldt (4 for 34) kept the Cobras in the hunt but 30s from Jacques Rudolph (39 off 42 balls), Faf du Plessis (32 off 84 balls) and Farhaan Berhardien (33 off 40 balls) took the Titans to 136 for 8 after 35 overs.
In Johannesburg, the Lions beat the Dolphins by five wickets to secure a place in the final four. An inspired bowling performance by the Lions reduced the Dolphins 35 for 4 in the 11th over. Loots Bosman (12 off 19 balls) was forced to retire hurt after getting hit on the hand by Friedel de Wet (2 for 25). David Miller (42 off 43 balls) and Glen Adicott (61 off 85 balls) helped the Dolphins to 196 for 7.
The Lions survived an Imran Tahir (4 for 33) blitz midway through their innings. The home side were off to a comfortable start, but lost three wickets in as many overs when Tahir came on. Zander de Bruyn (52* off 80 balls) and Thami Tsolekile (49* off 49 balls) stood firm and the Lions won with more than four overs to spare.
The defending champions, the Warriors, slumped to a fourth defeat at the hands of the Knights in Bloemfontein. They batted first and their innings hinged on Colin Ingram's 92 (off 101 balls) and Justin Kreusch's 55 (off 62 balls). The Warriors notched up 229 for 8, with wickets shared all round the Knights bowlers. Ryan McLaren (1 for 35) had the most economical return.
The Knights were merciless in response. Hendricks (89 off 80 balls) and Rossouw (102* off 96 balls) took the game away from the Warriors. All their bowlers bar Rusty Theron (1 for 35) took a pasting and the Knights won inside 36 overs.
The Cobras crashed to their fifth defeat on Sunday in Paarl, when they lost to the Dolphins by seven wickets. Another dismal batting performance saw them total just 161 for 9. Owais Shah (48 off 95 balls) and Rory Kleinveld, who was batting at number ten (45 off 30 balls) were the two most meaningful contributors. Tahir (2 for 14) was again a deadly assassin and Kyle Abbott (3 for 49) picked up the most wickets.
The Dolphins were in trouble at 36 for 2 but recovered well. Ravi Bopara (50* off 75 balls) and new signing Vaughn van Jaarsveld (76 off 55 balls) took them to victory in the 29th over and also earned them a bonus point. With the Cobras yet to win a match in the competition the Dolphins joined the Lions in the semi-finals.
The last match of the weekend saw the Titans beat the Warriors by 25 runs on the Duckworth Lewis method in Centurion. Makhaya Ntini (2 for 27) removed both Titans openers cheaply before Theron (3 for 46) got stuck into the middle order. Henry Davids (51 off 72 balls) was the only half-century scorer for the hosts as they were bowled out for 214 in 38.1 overs.
Morkel (4 for 25) showed glimpses of form that may see him get reselected for South Africa as he plucked the Warriors openers early and returned to clean up the tail. Kreusch (68 off 62 balls) was the lone Warrior in a cause that cut short by rain. The heavens opened with the Warriors on 178 for 9 in the 37th over.
Batsman of the week: For the only century in this week's action, Rilee Rossouw gets this week's award. He also tops the batting charts with an average of 81.25.
Bowler of the week: Imran Tahir is knocking so hard on Andrew Hudson's door, when he becomes eligible to play in December it will make be interesting to see what the selectors do. He single-handedly brought the Dolphins back into the game against the Lions and bowled an attacking but containing spell against the Cobras.