National coach Ottis Gibson had lamented the lack of crowds in the country's first-class competition. Now, he may know why. A fourth consecutive round of draws means there were still no winners (or losers) in the competition, and though only nine points separate top of the table from the last-placed lot, excitement in the tournament is hardly high.
Defending champions, Knights, looked like they may be the first to blink when they suffered a first-innings deficit of 203. Lions then rapidly set them a target of 401 but the Knights held off the challenge. Lions scored 464 in their first innings, anchored by hundreds from Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen. Bjorn Fortuin took 6 for 78 to reduce Knights to 261 all out. A quick century from Stephen Cook and 67 from van der Dussen allowed Lions to declare on 198 for 2 late on day three. They took one Knights wicket that evening and needed nine on the final day, but Luthando Mnyanda and Keegan Petersen held them off for most of the day before Theunis de Bruyn and Rudi Second secured the draw.
Titans and Cobras both only batted once against Dolphins and Warriors respectively but even that did not buy them enough time to force a result.
Dean Elgar's 237* and Heinrich Klaasen's 111 led the Titans to a total of 500 for 6. Dolphins collapsed to the seam of Alfred Mothoa and spin from Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg in response. They were bowled out for 216 and put in again. Dolphins were much more composed in their second innings as Sarel Erwee and Cody Chetty both scored their second successive hundreds to save the game.
Warriors may not have anticipated themselves in a similar position to Dolphins when they scored 347 in their first innings at Newlands, led by Yaseen Vallie's 150. Nineteen-year-old left-armer Michael Cohen took 5 for 107 to keep Warriors in check but it was the Cobras batsmen who did the damage. Pieter Malan's 195 formed the spine of their innings. They declared on 530 for 8 on the third day and removed one Warriors' opener, leaving themselves with nine wickets to take on the final day. But Edward Moore struck a century and Colin Ackermann (106) only dismissed late in the day, making a result impossible.
On the national radar
Wiaan Mulder was pulled out of the Lions-Knights fixture after the first day to join up with the national one-day squad. He was not out on 18 overnight. In that same match, discarded Test opener Cook found form with his first century of the summer but de Bruyn did not have the opportunity to go big. He was 44 not out in Knights second innings when the match was drawn. Duanne Olivier, the Knights' national bowler did not play this round.
Elgar showed off his international form with a double-century for Titans. His opening partner Aiden Markram scored 67 while Klaasen, who traveled with the Test squad as a reserve wicketkeeper to New Zealand earlier in the year, made 111. Interestingly, Lungi Ngidi was named in Titans' squad but did not make the final XI. He did do some substitute fielding.
Much was expected of Cobras' middle-order batsman Jason Smith but he has yet to get going in the competition. He failed to get past fifty but managed his top-score of the season, 41.
There were 11 hundreds from this round of matches, taking the total number of centuries in the competition so far to 34. Early-season, batsmen-friendly pitches have rendered the bowlers blunt, which will be a concern for the national team later in the summer. Spinners have been the biggest beneficiaries with left-armer Fortuin the latest to prosper. His 6 for 78 for Lions was the standout performance of the week. Left-arm seamer Cohen also claimed a five-for for Cobras.
Though the runs are coming fairly easily, Moore has really cashed in. He scored a third hundred in four games for Warriors.
Spotted at the game
Despite the lack of in-stadium support, the match between Dolphins and Titans in Pietermaritzburg was attended by members of a local care home, who were brought in on the first day.